Education and work
Best check out my up-to-date Linkedin page, but a short summary follows.
Since October 2015 I’ve been training and working as a Bioinformatician in the CostaLab (AKA “Institute for Computational Genomics”). I do data analysis and visualisation, and maintain our lab’s software. I’m also the friendly local sysadmin.
During Apr-Jun 2015 I sneaked into a bioinformatics practical course at RWTH Aachen, then joined the lab as a research assistant (Jun-Sep 2015). Working on Next-Generation sequencing alignment and variant calling, clustering for DNASeq experiments and regression models for clinical (gen/epigen/metabol/prote)omics.
I’ve worked for a few months (May-Sep 2015) on time-series classification and some Android development for Snapback, cool startup based in Rome that aims to develop non-touch controllers for mobiles.
I worked almost two years in UK for Bet365 (Jun 2013 – Feb 2015), on the Middleware Systems Department. I programmed Erlang applications with high-availability, low-latency requirements, and for the last few months I was the sole developer of the italian betting middleware project.
I hold a MSc in Evolutionary and Adaptive Systems (2012) from the University of Sussex (UK), where I studied a range of subjects, from old plain maths to computational neuroscience, from artificial life to machine learning. My Master thesis described my tentative definition of a simplified epigenetic model in an artificial life setting, that was inspired by the lac Escherichia Coli: we showed that if transgenerational epigenetics exists, it is good in many life situations (like when the environment abruptly changes its own shape, without giving the species time to genetically adapt). You can read it here.
I also hold a BSc in Computer Science (2011) from Sapienza University of Rome. During my last year of Bachelor, I spent 8 months (2010-2011) as an intern at the Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies (part of the italian National Research Council), under the supervision of Stefano Nolfi, Head of the Laboratory of Autonomous Robotics and Artificial Life (LARAL). We tried to evolve an artificial active vision system that integrated information through time to categorize some grey images (letters, number, faces). You can read more about it here.
I believe scientists need to investigate cognition with different kind of methods, disciplines and mind-sets. We sure need to create an abstract and coherent theory of mind, but with adherence to the real world: the normal and pathological brain. In this perspective, the study of cognition is strongly interdisciplinary, ranging from the hardcore neurophysiology, to neuropharmacology, to philosophy and computer science as well as engineering. Most of the fields gravitating around neuroscience are of at least of some interest for me.
I personally like the synthetic approach (build to understand) to cognition, so I am drawn to bio-inspired robotics and artificial intelligence as well as computational biology. My experience lies mostly on Evolutionary Robotics, where evolved (with genetic algorithms) neural networks are used as controllers of various kinds of robots (simulated and/or physical). This is what I have done for my Bachelor thesis and during my internship at the LARAL.
The point of such experiments is to model “minimally cognitive” systems and explore, in great depth, their capabilities and underlying principles. This constitutes an important “block” to build models of more complex cognitive systems (ie, humans).
I am also interested in Artificial Life, a field coupled usually to the motto “not only life as it is, but as it could be”. Studies in this field generally leads to very cool alternative views and definitions of “life”.
My interest has been, however, different from that. I believe that if you can prove some biological mechanism to be beneficial under certain circumstances, there’s the possibility that nature has already “found it” somewhere, in some real organisms. Even if you haven’t found anything like it before, as of yet.
Therefore, an Artificial Life simulation is essential to first setup an experiment with specific conditions, and then test your hypothesis as you would in a “real” bioscience setting.
My master thesis was my way of “maturing” this view. I explored the issues of epigenetic inheritance and environment-induced DNA adaptivity within an Artificial Life framework, while citing “real-world” biology studies where evidence was present.
I’m also quite interested in the auto-cathalitic systems that help us understand how life could have arisen on Earth, before the first proper “cell”, eg Abiogenesis. I’ve never had a chance to work in the field though.
“New love” as of 2015. I’m currently in an exploratory phase, learning as much as I can about Molecular Biology and the challenges and techniques specific to a bioinformatician work.
You can see some of my code on Github. A good chunk of my work is private though, hosted on Bitbucket and GitLab.
By formation and inclination, I spend a fair amount of time keeping up to date with technology. I am an “agnostic” software developer, and have worked with a variety of languages, frameworks and paradigms.
I like the power of computer science when it comes to making sense of hard data for practical application (eg, data science/machine learning). I’ve had the chance to apply classification and clustering to real world data both during my studies and (some of) my work experience. I’ve only got a limited regression experience but I’m learning.
I like concurrent, distributed systems able to autonomously adapt and scale in different situations, and I got paid for working on such things. In this era of “Cloud Everything”, a programmer should not reason in a sequential way too often.
I enjoy working on Linux environments but can adapt to others as well. Being a bit lazy, I tend to automatise my computing needs using scripts of various complexities (mostly in Bash and Python).
I have a basic experience with the Android SDK, but I’m not really into GUIs. Just as I have basic experience with Arduino/Lego Mindstorms/Raspberry PI, but I’m not really into embedded systems.
I am a keen observer of the open source world, and I’m sure, sooner or later, I’m going to actually contribute to it. In the meanwhile, I use and spread around open source software.
I have the tendency to get on a new programming project from time to time: in the last few years, this has meant game projects, more often than not. I’ve dabbled with both multiplayer and singleplayer, but mostly focused on engine-level work rather than the actual games.
And the fun?
What wasn’t fun so far? :P
Ok, let’s see. I love videogames, especially the RPGs like Baldur’s Gate, but also strategic ones like Age of Empires. More recently, I’ve much enjoyed Mount&Blade: Warband for the realistic real-time combat and The Witcher for the cool story and gameplay. When I can, I contribute on Kickstarter to help some of the old videogames get a sequel or a remake. For example, with the Pillars of Eternity game.
I love to read, and the fantasy genre has always been dear to my heart. Some of my favourite fantasy authors are David Gemmell, Ursula K. LeGuin and Jonathan Stroud. Most of my readings, lately, are technical books (from molecular biology to algorithms). It’s rare a whole week passes without I’ve read at least a few pages of something. You can find a virtual representation of my library (including reviews) on Goodreads.
I also like to hike occasionally, and am slowly getting more outdoors – and watching a lot of bushcraft videos.