Category Archives: Anniversaries

15 years in science

Hard to believe, but I’ve been working in science for fifteen years! Many things have happened since I started my PhD in Antonio Bodini’s lab in Parma, but I still have fun doing my job, and I am extremely grateful for the fantastic students, postdocs and colleagues who have been working with me through the years. The anniversary calls for a song!

studying large matrices and their eigenvalues
teaching to code and to despise p-values
watching your students give excellent talks
these are a few of my favorite things

reviewing good papers that are bright and novel
writing nice code to implement a new model
having a coffee with my lab and friends
these are a few of my favorite things

finding a method to do something crazy
I will keep searching until I turn lazy
sending proposals before they are due
these are a few of my favorite things

when the grant bites
when reviews sting
when I’m feeling mad
I simply remember my favorite things
and then I can start over

Last week, I was at the National Gallery in DC, and I’ve stumbled upon the painting that is featured as the first slide of most of my talks. I think it’s a perfect metaphor of science: the reality is out there, we have a small window to observe it, and we want to compose a simplified picture to understand what is going on. May I’ll still be happy to peer through the window in 2032!

Me and one of my favorite paintings!
Me and one of my favorite paintings!

The Little Black Book

In Italy in the 1970s, youth belonging to counterculture movements would march in the streets, parading a copy of the Little Red Book  containing quotations from the writings of Chairman Mao Tse-tung.

Yesterday I turned 40, and to celebrate this very round anniversary, Gyuri, Jacopo, Liz and Matt presented me with a Little Black Book containing many of the things I often repeat, or particularly memorable utterances.


This was a truly moving gift, which made me laugh out loud — my labmates know me too well! (It also made me think that I am slowly becoming a grumpy old professor, always repeating the same Mantras)

I will keep the notebook in the lab, so that whenever someone feels the urge to record memorable quotations, they can be saved for posterity.

10 Years in Science

Exactly 10 years ago, I was starting my PhD

January 1st 2002 was my first day as an official PhD candidate, funded by the Italian Ministry of Education. I had been hanging around Antonio Bodini’s lab for a couple of months while preparing my entrance examination, but that was unofficial (and unpaid).

These past 10 years have been very intense but very fun. I have learned a lot and made many good friends along the way. If in 2002 somebody were to tell me that in 10 years I’d be a professor at a top US institution, publishing in Nature and Science, etc., I would have commented that it is not a good idea to add that much grappa to your coffee.

I am very grateful for all the help I received. In particular, my family and my mentors Antonio, Scott and Mercedes have been a constant source of support, enthusiasm and inspiration. The friends in Parma, the Mercedes lab gang and the NCEAS folks shared with me gallons of espresso, greatly improving the local economy, and turning coffee and laughs into papers. It is thanks to the wonderful people in my lab (in order of appearance Alex, Jose, Anna, Si, Philip, M, Phillip and Jason) that most days I walk to work whistling.

Science is a funny business, but I hope I’ll still love it as much as I do today 10 years from now.