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About me

I graduated in Biological Sciences (First Class Honours summa cum laude) at the University of Rome "La Sapienza". After post-graduate training and research in the Department of Genetics and Molecular Biology of the same University, I was awarded a Doctorate in Evolutionary Biology.

I then worked as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Cancer Research UK in London and was subsequently appointed as Staff Scientist by the National Research Council in Italy. Before joining the University of Westminster in 2013, I was for eleven years Head of the Molecular Cytogenetics and Microscopy Core of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, Nuffield Department of Medicine.

My research expertise is in human and medical genetics, with specific focus on genome functional organisation, chromosomal fragility and instability, gene mapping, nuclear architecture and dynamics, cancer biomarkers, and molecular cytogenetics for precision medicine.

I am a member of the British Society for Genetic Medicine, the European Cytogeneticists Association, and the UK Genetics Society, for which i am Local Ambassador at Westminster.

Teaching

I contribute to the teaching across different modules, levels and courses in the Biomedical and Life Sciences. I am Module Leader for L5 Medical Genetics in Practice, and L7 PG Project and PG 'Extended' Project. I am Deputy Module Leader for L5 Medical Genetics and Genomics, and L7 Principles of Molecular Medicine. While my teaching responsibilities are mainly in the areas of cell biology, molecular genetics and research methods, part of my teaching practice revolves around educating future generations of biomedical scientists in the use of microscopy applied to the diagnosis and prognosis of human disease.

I supervise UG, PG and Doctoral research projects.

I am PhD Coordinator for the School of Life Sciences and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Research

Chromosomes, nuclear architecture and genome organisation in health and disease

Chromosomal analysis at different stages of the cell cycle and at different resolution levels can provide important clues on a specific genome and its functioning, often supplying crucial information on the pathogenesis of medical conditions. Indeed, chromosomal and nuclear abnormalities have long been invaluable diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers.

My research interests lie with the functional organisation of chromosomes in the cell nucleus and the epigenetic impact of nuclear architecture, with the purpose of understanding how disruption of the large-scale chromatin organisation in interphase by interfering with the regulation of gene expression relates to human disease.

While I was working as a Post-Doc in Prof. Denise Sheer's research laboratory at Cancer Research UK, we were the first to demonstrate a link between microscopically visible changes in interphase chromosome structure and specific changes in gene expression ("Large-scale chromatin organization of the MHC on human chromosome 6 and its response to interferon in interphase nuclei", Volpi et al., 2000, J Cell Sci 113:1565-1576). Ever since our ground-breaking discoveries, giant chromatin loops displacing gene clusters from the main chromosome territory - like the ones we described for the MHC - have become a universally acknowledged feature of nuclear chromatin organisation functional dynamics.

My current research endeavours focus on the combined application of molecular genetics and modern microscopy techniques for the assessment and monitoring of 'genome health' from a chromosomal and nuclear architecture perspective, with the main aims of (1) understanding the requirements for genome health maintenance in vitro and in vivo, and (2) identifying pre-pathological biomarkers with translational potential.