During her PhD research at the European Institute of Oncology in Milan she studied a rare subset of immune cells called invariant Natural Killer T-cells (iNKT-cells). These cells are involved in intestinal inflammation and autoimmunity. Within the Karin de Visser research group at the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) she is studying these same cells in the context of breast cancer: “Although iNKT-cells are known to have antitumor potential, they have been largely overlooked in the cancer field because they’re not abundant in cancer patients. I hypothesize that they are suppressed in cancer patients and understanding how this happens will be important to design novel immunotherapies for breast cancer patients.”
Determined and a bit stubborn
During the pandemic, Claudia spent her time writing proposals for fellowships she finally all won. She received a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship, next to an AIRC and an EMBO. “That was really great! But you know, with everything I do in life I am very determined and maybe sometimes even a bit stubborn.”
Claudia writing the proposals for the fellowships took some stress. This required persistence: “I was really motivated to win the fellowships. So it was worth the effort. Working at the NKI means a dream come true. This institute has a renowned tradition of immunology research combined with cutting-edge clinical research. Here I can expand my expertise and the fellowships are an important award that gives me access to the top-level European scientific community.”
Explore and reflect
After her Phd research Claudia was highly motivated to continue her work, preferably in another European country: “I think it is really important to go abroad, explore, and face you are alone in a new country and a new environment. It opens up both your personal and your professional mind.
I learn a lot from my colleagues at the NKI. Also, it strikes me how quickly we became friends.
There’s such a good atmosphere at the NKI! This was really important for me especially because shortly after I came to the Netherlands the corona pandemic started.”
“I was very concerned about the health of my family but I could not go back to Italy.” Luckily, her boyfriend is also in the Netherlands. “He is also a researcher and works with a company in Leiden. We just bought a house together.”
Eventually, Claudia wants to go back to Italy. But for the coming years she wants to enjoy her life in Amsterdam with her boyfriend and lots of plants in the house and on their balcony: “Plants are still one of my favorite hobbies.”