Michela Milani, UniSR PhD student, selected for the prestigious “Roche Continents” in Salzburg
The 100 best students of the most prestigious European Universities gathered in Salzburg for a week: for the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University Michela Milani was selected, a brilliant graduate in Medical Biotechnology at our University and currently a student of the UniSR International PhD Course in Molecular Medicine, working within the San Raffaele Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy (SR-TIGET).
Created in 2007 by the renowned pharmaceutical company Hoffmann – La Roche, the Roche Continents project allows 100 young students (70 of scientific disciplines and 30 of the artistic field) to discuss transversal topics such as science, art and society, with the common denominator of creativity, inserted in the frame of the Salzburg Festival. Every year, Roche asks the best European Universities to nominate their best student, who meets certain requirements – such as being between 20-29 years old and being particularly deserving. This year’s theme: “The Power of Passion”.
“They have been 4 intense days, when we were offered the opportunity to participate in an important and suggestive event like the Salzburg festival, during which we were involved through different art forms and to confront scientists and artists. In the life of a researcher – Michela comments – it is difficult to have opportunities to meet in areas other than scientific: for this reason, participating in Roche Continents has been a truly productive and informative experience. Confronting me with young artists and many scientists from fields far from mine, reminded me once again that the scientific and artistic world are not far away, on the contrary: the “Power of the Passion” was the common denominator for all of us. I found the same commitment, the dedication, the enthusiasm, even the determination in dealing with the difficulties, both in my fellow scientists and in the artists I met”. Is science creative? “It is, absolutely; when you are faced with a problem, it is essential to get out of the box to find an original and innovative solution to design an experiment that responds to that question and allows you to take that extra step to understand something that no one in the world has yet discovered”.
In addition to being a researcher, Michela is also a talented artist: she plays guitar, takes drum lessons and sings in a band, “Saint George and the Dragon”. “My dream in the drawer – she confides – would be playing at the San Siro stadium with my band”. She loves experimenting with new artistic techniques in the field of painting, for example creating paintings made with spray paint cans.
Following a meeting organized by the Telethon Foundation for researchers around the importance of public engagement, returning from a gene therapy congress in the United States in May 2017, Michela has also designed the project #365GiorniDaRicercatore: through her Facebook profile she has shown every day, for a year, the different aspects of her life as a researcher. Episodes of daily life in the laboratory, educational explanations, references to sensitive social issues (such as vaccines or animal testing), but also aspects of her personal life, such as holidays or concerts, since a researcher’s life is not confined to a laboratory. “This project has brought great results first of all in me; I dusted off notions of biology I had not revised for years, I met many people and I realized that Science, if presented with the right means, thrills everyone. Through this project, moreover, I have been reached by some parents of children suffering from genetic diseases, and I have been able to put them in contact with clinics of reference for their child’s pathology (which is not easy in the case of rare genetic disorders). Finally, I realized that an increasing number of people were following my posts quite regularly: although they might remember little of what I wrote, I think it was important to establish a relationship of trust with the public towards science – which unfortunately, in recent years sometimes lacked”.
She concludes: “If possible, I recommend to anyone an experience like Roche Continents: I came back home with friends collected all over Europe and memories of unforgettable moments lived together. Academy and industry are not in opposition, but they collaborate for the same purpose: the search for effective treatments to improve people’s lives. Roche’s huge investment, in economic but also human terms, is a positive push in this direction”.
More info about the project Roche Continents are available on: https://roche-continents.com/home.html