Meet Marco Lolaico

Hej there! So, it looks like it is my turn to introduce myself. I am Marco Lolaico and I am one of the 15 early stage researchers taking part in the DNA robotics network. I am working in Stockholm at the Karolinska Institutet, in Björn Högberg’s group. I will tell a little about myself and how I arrived here. I’m warning you – I like to talk.

I am Italian. I was born and raised in Marina di Pisa, a small town near the sea and the beautiful city of Pisa. I came from a big family, at least for the Italian standards: I am the second of five kids and the only male. When you add all the pets we had during the years, from fishes to dogs, including rabbits, birds, turtles, some rescued bats sometimes, you basically have a zoo. Thus, during my childhood, everything was very loud, and I think I have never been alone. Very nice, now that I think about it. Stressful, but nice.


A nice sunset in Marina di Pisa.

Anyway, I have always been interested in nature, science, and building stuff. As a kid, I had a lot of books on animals and dinosaurs. One of my favourite games when I was a child was to build a giant tower of Legos with my sister (that was obviously the leaning tower of Pisa for us) that, in the end, would obviously crash on the floor, for the joy of my mother. During my scholastic career, I always especially liked biology and chemistry, together with all kinds of literature, especially Italian. Reading has always been of my favourite hobbies, along with sports, music (I played the guitar for some years), and videogames.


The famous Leaning Tower and some random tourists. An iconic duo.

After high school, I decided to follow my passion for molecular biology. I also found out about the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, one of the few institutes of excellence in Italy and one of the best Italian universities. So, I decided to prepare and try the test. After I passed it, I became a student of the School, in the sector of Biotechnology and Agricultural Science. So, I was at the same time a student at the University of Pisa (first in the Biotechnology bachelor’s degree and then in the Molecular Biotechnology master’s degree) and a student at the School, where I had to follow additional courses. But the best part about the Sant’Anna scholarship is, without doubt, the possibility to live in a college with all the other students, something that is almost unique in the Italian university. Here I had the best years of my life. I met some amazing people and a lot of friends. The time flew between parties, welcome activities for the new students, late night talking, and table football matches. Oh, I also studied, sometimes. Living under the same roof with your friends is an amazing experience and I have really grown during these years, both from a personal and an academic point of view.


The main college of the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies.

During my university career, I studied a lot of different aspects of biology, from plants to human physiology, but after an internship in plant physiology in Scotland and my thesis in molecular biology, I couldn’t find something interesting enough. But I was lucky, and that was the moment I discovered DNA nanotechnology. It happened thanks to a seminar by professor Ricci at Sant’Anna School. To be completely honest, I wasn’t there, because I had the graduation of one of my best friends that day. Anyway, I heard a lot about the seminar from the other students, and I started reading about DNA nanotechnologies. Then I found the DNA origami field and I was fascinated by the idea of building structures at the nanoscale. This was almost at the end of the first year of my master when I had to find a place to prepare my master thesis. So, I started looking for laboratories that were working with DNA nanotechnologies and that is when I found Björn’s lab. I was intrigued by the combination of DNA nanotechnologies and basic biology studies, that allowed me to use my previous experiences but in a field that was very interesting to me. I contacted Björn and he agreed to let me work in his lab for my thesis. There I learned the basics of DNA origami and I met a lot of nice people. I really liked working there and I asked to stay. Once again, I was lucky: Björn told me about this ITN and how I could apply.


A rare view of Stockholm at night during summer.

So, to speed up a little, I went back to Pisa, I finished my exams, I graduated, I broke my arm (actually, it was a dislocation of the elbow), I had to cut my hair, I did the applications and the interviews needed, and then I came back to Sweden. I am now working again on DNA nanostructures, trying to create a nanodevice that can pull on mechanosensitive receptors. A tough project, but I’m very excited to be part of this ITN and I’m looking forward to the next meetings with the other students!

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