03/08/2016

Interview with Dr Ludovico Dreni, Researcher in China with a Marie Curie Global Fellowship


Dr Ludovico Dreni is a Marie Curie Global Fellow at the Spanish Council for Scientific Research and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China. Within the framework of his fellowship, he is currently based at the Laboratory of Plant Developmental Biology at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, one of the top universities in China. In this interview he shares his experience as a recipient of the prestigious Marie Curie Global Fellowship.

 

Dr Dreni, please tell us a little about yourself. Which research project have you been involved in as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Global Fellow?

I have been awarded a three-year Marie Curie Global Fellowship (formerly known as International Outgoing Fellowship) with the "Evolution and Development of Carpels and Fruits" lab of Cristina Ferrándiz in Spanish Council for Scientific Research. The host during the outgoing phase is the Laboratory of Plant Developmental Biology of Prof. Dabing Zhang, Shanghai Jiao Tong University with proposal title: "Carpel evolution: a walk in the rice side" (acronym "RiceStyle").

Our interest focus on the transcription factors regulating carpel development in rice and in other model plants, in their functional conservation and in understanding the importance that they had for the evolution of angiosperm plants.

What motivated you to spent your fellowship in China? 

I first came to Shanghai before the application for MSCA. After a few months, we decided to apply for the global fellowship. For me, this was a great opportunity - it was always my dream to have this fellowship, especially the global one.

I found another lab in Spain that does excellent research in plant development, and we started discussing the application. We found a good idea that capitalises on the work in the lab of Prof Dabing Zhang who is very famous in rice research internationally. We put together our expertise in rice genetics and evolutionary development. 

How did you identify your host institutions in China and in Spain? Was it difficult setting up the partnership? 

Actually, I have had a long-standing collaboration with Prof Dabing Zhang who is the PI of the Chinese host lab. We first met at a conference; then he invited me to China. I spent some time in Shanghai before applying for MSCA, so I knew exactly what I was doing. I was delighted when I learned that I was awarded the fellowship, and I must also thank to EURAXESS since they put me in touch with other fellows which helped greatly to sort out practical issues before signing the grant agreement.

I have known the supervisor in Spain, Dr. Cristina Ferrandiz, for a long time but unfortunately, we never collaborated. Then I met both her and Prof Dabing Zhang in a workshop in France back in 2013. She offered me a postdoc position, but back then, I had already finalised my plans with Prof Dabing Zhang for a postdoc in Shanghai's SJTU. One year later, at the beginning of my work in SJTU, I got the idea and contacted her! She was really enthusiastic, and she helped me a lot in improving and developing my idea.

How has research stay outside of Europe benefitted your career development?

The global fellowship enables you to do an exchange with labs in different countries - during your outgoing phase, you can also carry out secondments- many options to grow professionally. 

During the outgoing phase, I can only visit the return host lab for up to one month. I am spending this time starting from the next week. However, during my 2-year outgoing phase, I can spend up to six months of secondments in labs (also in companies) in Europe - excluding the return host lab. I plan to use the 6 months of secondments in the next year.

And how do you think has your Chinese host benefited from your research stay?

In biology or life sciences in general, there are many techniques and skills you can use in your research. I have been an expert in many techniques in Milan before, and I am now teaching those techniques and experiments here, training PhD students in China. On the other hand, there are many other experiments, techniques and protocols in molecular biology I have been missing in my expertise and I can only get to learn in Shanghai. When I return to Spain, I will disseminate what I have learned here, and again learn many new techniques that will be overall useful in the project.

 

In retrospect, which elements do you think were decisive in you being successful in your application?

Together, we have developed a good idea. We have followed European Commissions' instructions online carefully - your proposal must contain a very good idea and an exchange of expertise among institutions, which will then help extend their further collaboration. Through my fellowship, we are involving two labs who were not in straight contact before, helping to strengthen their collaboration, and the ties between Europe and China.

Do you have any advice for other researchers who are considering applying for a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellowship?

My main suggestion is to follow your passion, and find two labs that share this passion. For me, it is fundamental to have a team and a boss who don't care just about the impact factor of their papers, but who feel true passion for the topic. I think this is the real meaning of academic career - to follow your passion and never give up.

Thank you Dr Dreni!

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About the fellow:

Dr Ludovico Dreni is a Marie Curie Global Fellow at Spanish Council for Scientific Research and Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Within the framework of his fellowship, he is currently based at the Laboratory of Plant Developmental Biology at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, one of top universities in China.

Dr Dreni has completed his PhD in Genetic and Biomolecular Sciences at the Università degli Studi di Milano in 2007 where he was later on also based as a post-doc. As a visiting scholar, he carried out short-term mobility stays in Stanford University in the US, Leiden University in Netherlands, Universidade Federal de Pelotas in Brazil and International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, before moving to China.

His research interest focus on the transcription factors regulating carpel development in rice and in other model plants, in their functional conservation and in understanding the importance that they had for the evolution of angiosperm plants.

Where do I find out more?

The 2016 Call for tyhe MSCA-IF Fellowships is currently open with a deadline of 14 September 2016. Find out more here.

Please do also visit the official MSCA homepage here. 

Please do contact your nearest EURAXESS Links officer for assistance.