When Federica first visited her laboratory a Houston was left speechless. The feeling of awe lingered for a while, amidst state-of-the-art machinery, lectures, and early experiments. “Now this is my life, and I feel very lucky”. Federica Giordano he is 32 years old and comes from Palermo. Today she is a researcher in the field of nanotecnolgie allo Houston Methodist Research Institute, negli USA. The same center where he had the opportunity to work for a year during his PhD in Molecular and Translational Medicine (carried out at the University of Milan – Bicocca). “I was fascinated by the many nanotechnological applications and by the possibility of ranging in different lines of research. The avant-garde technologies, the possibility of collaborating with luminaries in the world of research and that of participating in conferences of great importance have pushed me to leave my beloved land “, recalls Federica at fatto.it.
The first impact in Houston was disorientation. “The huge streets, the lack of a purely European-style city center. Everything turned out far and poorly connected by public transport “. The first week at work was a bit like going back to the first day at school, with a new language and a new culture to be absorbed in a very short time: “Although I had always studied English, speak it daily in all contexts is not the same thing”. The research goal of Federica is to use nanoparticles as a vehicle for the transport of drugs for the treatment of tumors, combining theefficacy of target therapy with that of nanoparticles. The day passes between laboratory experiments with cells, reports, articles, meetings. “At the moment, I am following and managing a rather large project and other somewhat smaller projects where I am supporting or supervising. In our work there are so many deadlines to meet that, for some strange reason, they usually overlap ”, he smiles. The impact of the pandemic on research in the Usa it was “unexpected, dramatic. A blow that hit researchers, students and academics, with most of the jobs suspended or redirected to face the Covid-19“. A blow that, explains Federica, will leave behind for years to come.
Federica believes that the Italian university education is excellent. But it goes with one scenario which, to say it in the words of a recent report published on Nature, “Is characterized by uncertainty about working conditions, low satisfaction and a precarious condition that unites researchers from all over the world”. In most cases, adds the Palermo researcher, the salaries of a PhD student or research fellow in Italy “correspond to legal minimum (between 1,100-1,500 euros net per month) while in the US salaries range from 1,900 to 3,000 euros net per month, for the same positions “. A respectable figure if compared to Italian salaries but which, he adds, “is not always sufficient to face the cost of living (between health insurance and rent), especially in cities such as New York O San Francisco“. Furthermore, the salary is balanced over 40 hours per week, “but does not take into account overtime hours and weekends spent in the laboratory; a constant in this type of work “.
Going home after a period abroad? “I think this is the question that sooner or later all those who have left Italy ask themselves – smiles Federica -. Surely if I could have the same economic and job opportunities that I have here in the USA I would go back to Italy. I know that there are benefits for those who return, but the questions and fears remain the same as when we left: can we make a career? Can we be valued, can we build a future? Tax concessions are not enough – he continues – but we have to solve the problem for which we are leaving, that is, a prospect for the long-term future ”. In short, it would be wonderful “if only there were opportunities and resources similar to those we have abroad. To be able to return, teach and contribute to the progress of our country. All friends or acquaintances who went abroad before me told me ‘once you set foot outside Italy you will never come back’. the I hope still that are wrong – Federica concludes -. Because it is in Italy that I would like to create my family and my future ”.