Domenico Pimpinella, a Formian researcher at Columbia University


Domenico Pimpinella, 38, from Formia. A bachelor’s degree in biology and then a master’s in neurobiology. tell us more about your university career and the reasons for these choices.

My scientific career includes a three-year degree in Biology, a postgraduate degree in Neurobiology and a PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience, obtained at the “La Sapienza” University of Rome and at the EBRI (European Brain Research Institute ) Rita Levi Montalcini. Before starting my PhD I did a year of research on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at the Santa Lucia Foundation in Rome. And currently, after almost ten years spent in my laboratory in Rome where I mostly studied social memory and autism, I moved to New York to begin this new experience at Columbia University. In reality, I never chose to do research, but while I was preparing the three-year thesis I approached science and this led me to subsequently choose Neurobiology as a specialist and consequently the PhD in Neuroscience. I can therefore say that science has positively influenced my life.

The term neuroscience comes from the English neurosciences, a neologism coined by the American neurophysiologist Francis O. Schmitt. He argued that if the complexity of brain and mental functioning is to be fully understood, all barriers between the different scientific disciplines had to be removed by pooling their resources. Where are we with research?

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I’m of the idea that the barriers, and I am talking about those that divide, should always be removed because they limit exchanges, whether they are of a social or cultural nature and therefore also scientific.

That said, neuroscience has been a great example of integration but above all of collaboration, because from the beginning it was understood that a complex organ such as the brain and its cognitive functions could not be studied and fully understood without adopting a multidisciplinary approach. .

The need was immediately felt to integrate the different information coming from different disciplines such as physiology, molecular biology and histology to try to explain the complex mechanisms that regulate the human mind. Today the research laboratories are examples of integration where the group is made up of researchers with totally different backgrounds. Within the same laboratory collaborate psychologists, doctors, physicists, mathematicians, molecular biologists, physiologists and so on. Because it is impossible to understand such complex mechanisms by observing and analyzing them from a single point of view. Another fundamental concept of today’s neuroscience is sharing, the importance of databases, today the sharing of knowledge, the collaboration between different laboratories in the world that is increasingly facilitated by the development of technology plays a crucial role in research. Where are we with research? We will be at a good point when we fully understand the importance that scientific research has on society and on everyday life.

In the common imagination, the figure of the typical Italian researcher is associated with the description provided by the saga “I quit when I want”. How different (if it is) is reality?

The ‘I quit when I want’ saga is a beautiful parody about penniless Italian researchers who are even forced to renounce their qualifications in order to find a job outside the university and although it is a lot of fun, it highlights a problem that instead with irony has nothing to do with it, that is, precariousness. Unfortunately, the contractual situation of many Italian researchers is precarious, with often underpaid student contracts and this condition should be improved, protecting the researcher as a professional figure. From this point of view, there is still a lot of work to be done and I understand those who leave their country to get better working conditions. So even if it is highly emphasized, we say that the condition of many researchers in Italy is quite close to that described by the film.

A new life in New York at the prestigious Columbia University. A life changing experience. Is that what you imagined as a boy? Honestly as a boy I never imagined being a researcher, much less living in New York, despite being a city that has always fascinated me because it is dynamic, constantly evolving but which always retains its historical charm. Such an experience changes your life, it is an incredible opportunity in terms of work and personal growth but in any case it involved sacrifices such as being away from one’s loved ones and one’s country even if today, fortunately, technology has made progress. giant greatly reducing the distances. More than a new life I would call it a new phase in my life, because I did not come here to Manhattan to start over but to continue a career as a researcher that began about ten years ago at the EBRI research institute. Rita Levi Montalcini From Rome. Columbia represents for me and for my career a unique opportunity to evolve and grow scientifically, I hope to get the best from this experience both professionally and personally.

Domenico Pimpinella, a Formian researcher at Columbia University