Dr Roberto Angelini has become the latest academic at Swansea University to receive the prestigious Academy of Medical Science Springboard award.
The Springboard offers a bespoke package of support to biomedical researchers at the start of their first independent post to help launch their research careers. This includes funding of up to £100,000 over two years and access to the Academy’s acclaimed mentoring and career development programme.
Dr Angelini is a specialist in lipidomics, a science that marries the chemistry, biochemistry and biophysics of the cellular lipids - or fats - that function in our body.
After studying in Italy and spending time at prestigious institutions in Germany and the USA, he came to Swansea University Medical School in 2017, thanks to a successful Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions - Sêr Cymru Individual Fellowship, joining the laboratory of Professor William Griffiths and Professor Yuqin Wang.
Over the years, Dr Angelini has developed several methods for lipid analyses based on mass spectrometry, applying them to study rare diseases, cancer, and neurological disorders. Once you take away water, half the human brain is made of lipids. Conical lipids, or brain plasmalogens, can support vesicle fusion, required for nerve cells - or synapses - to fire signals along fibres. Plasmalogen levels reduce with age, and at a higher pace in Alzheimer’s disease. Here, changes in plasmalogen levels occur earlier, probably causing progressive damage to nerves or neurodegeneration, which in turn gradually affects memory, sensation, and thinking.
The Springboard grant will allow Dr Angelini to cultivate nerve cells and build a model for measuring signal transmission between them and he hopes this study could provide important evidence to support new therapies to treat neurodegeneration.
He said: “This award means a lot to me, and I am extremely flattered to receive it. It is crucial to know that all the dedication I have put into generating this idea, the endless writing process, and the nights awake with a lot of coffee, have paid off. And that if you work hard, good things will happen.
“It is a great honour to see that my work has meaning and that it has been recognised by the larger community of the Academy. It also means a lot to the people who have supported me here at the Medical School and I am glad I have not disappointed them. As an early career researcher, I always wonder if I will be able to make a difference, to have an impact. Well, now I have the chance to try.”
Professor Steve Conlan said: “As Swansea University Medical School’s Springboard Champion, I am delighted that Rob has been recognised by the Academy for his expertise and future potential. These awards offer a unique package of support, both financially to conduct research, but also in terms of the mentoring and career development programme.”