Dr Silvia Paracchini holding a single-channel pipette.

I’m a Human Geneticist but there’s nothing in my past that suggests that that’s what I would become. My journey to where I am now is really a combination of different events: some choices and some chance.

Dr Silvia Paracchini

When the time came to choose what to study at university, I was so undecided that one day I simply asked myself what was the single one thing that I enjoyed learning about. The answer was Gregor Mendel’s experiments, considered to be the foundation of genetics science; and so that’s how I ended up enrolling to study Biology at the University of Pavia. During my studies, I went to Denmark on the Erasmus programme and got a glimpse of research outside Italy.

I then moved to Oxford for a PhD in Human Genetics, where I discovered that science can be creative and that I wanted to have my own research group. It took me two years and a few rejections before getting my Royal Society Fellowship. During that time, I applied for jobs around the world and got a job offer from St Andrews and the Fellowship more-or-less at the same time. I moved to Scotland with my
husband and two young daughters in 2011.

The main focus of my research is the genetic basis of dyslexia. We know there is a strong genetic component to this condition which affects up to 10% of children but we still can’t pinpoint the specific genes. In the shorter term, my research is contributing to understanding how the brain develops. In the longer term, this knowledge will help to develop better tools to manage dyslexia and other neurodevelopmental conditions. The more we study the human genome and the human brain, the more we appreciate the underlying complexity.

Silvia is holding a single-channel pipette, which she likens to an extension of her arm as her work consists of mixing tiny and very precise volumes of different reagents.