Isn’t it about flexibility?
Before my 30’s, I always had trouble telling people which part of France I was from, being born in Paris but having moved all around the country. Now, I am not sure I would have believed then this was just the beginning. From my PhD in Normandy, I have been moving around from Cambridge UK, Baltimore and New York in the US and now Italy. Along this experience I picked up various skills and knowledge about life and science, met extraordinary colleagues and friends and got an English spouse altogether. We are fully used to travel and to changes of setting now and that was not a problem for us to move again. I tend to think that traveling is important for gaining the so necessary level of flexibility required in science. However, I think even more strongly that this is such a nice life experience that should not be overlooked.
Hearing of the opening position at the IIT with Raffaella Tonini was a chance for me to work on serotonin for which I have been interested for a while. The function of this molecule is so obscure that some scientists have concluded it does everything and its opposite. For example, serotonin was classically (and still is) believed to be responsible for anxiety disorders, but at the same time, recent studies have revitalized earlier hypotheses posing it as the happiness molecule. I do not know for you but I would like to understand how being anxious makes you happy. I felt I could contribute to settle on the matter and in order to better our chances we applied to a Marie Sklodowska Curie fellowship, which I was pleased to be granted last year. Even though we have only been working on the project for less than a year, we’re already gaining exciting insight as to what does serotonin do and don’t. I already have learnt so much approaches that were available in the lab dabbling with calcium imaging and expanding my experience with fiber photometry. Also, I enjoy very much the collaborative spirit and the friendly environment that we share amongst colleagues with such different multidisciplinary backgrounds.
The prospect to move to Italy was exciting yet initially a bit daunting as on contrary to other places I have been working, I did not speak the language. Fortunately, my spouse and I only met very warm people that were patient enough to pardon our English and help improve our Italian. The pandemic has affected everyone in one way or another last year and us included and we are looking forward to fully enjoy the city once the condition will be safer. Despite the challenges, we feel more at home in Italy, especially coming just after our experience in the US, definitively returning to a more European way of life.