Two Swiss Postdoctoral Fellowships at USI
Institutional Communication Service
24 July 2023
Ninety young postdoctoral researchers from abroad have been awarded Swiss Postdoctoral Fellowships by the SNSF to carry out two-year independent research projects at research teams in Switzerland. The SNSF received a total of 503 proposals for these fellowships, making the selection process highly competitive with a success rate of around 18%. Among the successful applicants were two female researchers who will be continuing their research at the Università della Svizzera italiana.
The grant went to Sofia Botti, from the University of Pavia (also a former researcher at USI), for the project "Cell-by-cell and bidomain models for cardiac derived stem cell tissue: innovative numerical and deep learning tools for regenerative medicine", which will be hosted at the Euler Institute under the supervision of Rolf Krause, and to Emeline Pierre, from the Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium), for her project "The linguistic representation of agentivity in fashion controversies and its connection to argumentative strategies", which will be hosted at IALS under the supervision of Sara Greco.
These two fellowships add to the one awarded last year in the previous call for applications by Alain Pe-Curto, with his project "Value Exploration - The Disquieting Arithmetic of Being Human", which is currently being conducted at the Faculty of Theology in Lugano affiliated to USI.
We asked Sofia Botti what does her project consist of?
The project falls within the field of computational cardiology and consists of implementing a new mathematical model for the electrophysiology of cardiomyocytes derived from induced stem cells (hiPSC-CMs). In particular, it aims to investigate innovative cellular models and advanced numerical tools to create a microscopic model for engineered cardiac tissue.
The approach envisaged for this study is based on collaboration with scientists from different disciplines and synergy between different fields to create a valid tool to simulate cardiac electrophysiology with high-resolution models and ensure the scientific community's adoption of the new product.
What are the objectives and practical implications?
The field of regenerative medicine has undergone extensive development in recent decades through the discovery of hiPSC-CMs. The project's main goal is to improve the understanding of the main physiological processes specific to these cardiomyocytes.
Existing models provide approximations of the tissue using a spatial scale that is several times larger than the actual cell size. Therefore, the challenge is to provide a microscopic mathematical formula of the problem, better suited to the emerging technology of induced stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes. This goal requires computationally efficient numerical methods to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of scientific calculation, allowing energy savings in numerical simulation.
The model can be used to virtually represent patient-specific tissue and simulate different treatment strategies, thus providing real-time support for medical decisions. The benefits of a patient-specific simulator are a step towards personalised medicine, as it reduces costs and time spent on elaborate laboratory tests.
Finally, the high impact of the project and the creation of synergies between different fields will lead to the development of new applications, and it could be the first step towards greater integration of regenerative medicine in computational cardiology models.
Considering your academic background and career development, what is the importance of being able to undertake a mobility stay of this kind?
Mobility at USI is certainly of great impact for academic career development. The strong collaborations between the academic and clinical communities in Ticino, along with the interaction with the local Cardiocentro Ticino Foundation - Ente Ospedaliero Cantonale (CCT-EOC), can provide valuable support for the interdisciplinary approach required for my project. In addition, German and Italian research groups have expressed interest in this area of research and the development of innovative numerical tools for regenerative medicine. To further expand the project's prospects for international collaboration, two visit experiences are planned over the two-year course of the project.