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Celebrate Diversity Month: Q&A With Featured Research Trainee, Anna Ada Dattoli, PhD

Published on April 28, 2022 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 10 months 4 weeks ago


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Anna Ada Dattoli, PhD

The April Featured Research Trainee for Celebrate Diversity Month is Anna Ada Dattoli, PhD.

Editor's Note: During Celebrate Diversity Month, our Featured Research Trainee for April is Anna Ada Dattoli, PhD. Dr. Dattoli is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. Dr. Dattoli graduated from University of Amsterdam with a PhD in Developmental Biology. In this Q&A, Dr. Dattoli discusses her research, her experiences at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and the importance of diversity.

Q: What message do you hope people take away from Celebrate Diversity Month?

The word "diversity" comes from the Latin word diversus, which, once translated, can have the following meanings — opposite, separate, different, hostile — which hints at something distant and suggests some sort of comparison. Words are important, and perhaps if they do not best express what we would like to say, we should have the courage to change them.

Drusilla Foer, a great Italian actress and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, proposed to replace the word diversity with "uniqueness." I totally agree. In fact, uniqueness positively expresses the concept of multi-culturalism. Importantly, everybody is unique because of their background and experience, which forge their personality. The word uniqueness also implies that everybody is different from each other, and we should respect it. Therefore, in this context, my message is that the uniqueness of each individual is exactly what this society needs to work better!

Q: What are some research projects you are currently working on? Why is your work important?

I am currently working on diabetes and learning how to culture and differentiate human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs). Specifically, I am using hPSCs to both model the disease and to provide an alternative therapy to the daily administration of insulin. In fact, hPSCs promise to provide a potentially endless source of patient-specific functional β-cells to be transplanted into patients with diabetes. My goal is to generate high quality stem-cell-derived β-cells to be used for cellular therapies.

Q: Aside from research, what do you consider your biggest accomplishment?

Aside from research, my biggest accomplishment is my commitment to the community. During the years of my PhD at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), I was involved in several initiatives aimed at promoting a healthy environment in the workplace. I was part of the PhD/postdoctoral council of the institute. The aim was to provide a safe place to discuss issues within the institute directly with the director.

As part of the council, I made it a priority to support PhD candidates with a direct path for conflict resolution with their supervisor. Importantly, the collaboration among the council, the management of the institute, and the dean of science at UvA led to the production of a document to guarantee supervision quality control for PhD students, to prevent bullyism in academia, and to provide a standard for the university bylaws (2014). This is probably my greatest achievement, besides science.

Here at CHOP, I am the director of the international committee in the CHOP Postdoc Alliance, and our goal is to provide support to the new incoming international postdocs in the initial stages of their appointment at CHOP, helping them to navigate the system and helping them to settle down in the Philadelphia area. I am also part of the Women in Science committee, and we are working to inspire young female scientists to build the resilience necessary to overcome unexpected obstacles.

Q: What do you do for fun when you're not in the lab?

When I am not in the lab, I am fully committed to my family, and you can always find us hiking in the beautiful Pennsylvania forests.