What being a researcher means


Hello everyone!

My name is Marilù Casini and I am officially part of this huge family around the world called PersonalizeAF. Every months me and all the other ESRs will keep you updated about our research project through this blog. But why do scientists write a blog?! Shouldn’t they only perform experiments finding new treatments for the people?! Absolutely not! During my years in the academia I realized that doing research isn’t the only challenge posed by the scientific community. Academia, indeed, should not only present its findings, but also shapes the citizens and the democracy. It must contribute to the building of public consensus, as science would not have the capability to create progress if it could not induce changes in the society. So, here we are! A wonderful blog where all the young researchers of the consortium can show and keep the public updated about all the mysterious experiments we do in our labs.

Me having a speech during one of the scientific conferences I organized at the University of Florence. The main goal of the BioMedDay was to convey to the young researchers and physicians the importance of science communication.

But first, I need to present myself. Just a few words, I promise! I am from Italy, specifically from a little town called Viareggio, famous “only” for a crazy carnival that we organize every February. In Italy, after 5 years of staying up all night studying, exams and desperation, I finally got my degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Technologies at the University of Florence. Here, during my one-year long master’s internship, I had the opportunity to work with stem cells for the first time. Specifically, I studied the cells from patients with a rare disease called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. After this experience I completely fell in love with these peculiar cells. Why? Because they have the power to develop and become another type of cell, for example cells of the heart! And guess what? Once they differentiate into heart cells, they can also beat! Amazing.


A memory of my graduation with my mentor Professor Elisabetta Cerbai

After this experience, I had the confirm that research was one of my principal aim regarding my future. And since research means experience, curiosity, technique, collaboration and communicating in different languages, I decided to pursue another internship in Germany. At the beginning of 2020 I moved in Göttingen to work at Wolfram Zimmermann’s laboratory, where I used stem cells to create a 3D tissue model of the heart. This experience totally changed my life as a scientist and as a person. Despite the pandemic, here I had the opportunity to support and collaborate with many colleagues with different educational and cultural background in a cutting-edge laboratory. Furthermore, I used my free time to finally open my own science communication channel called “Te Lù Spiego”. The goal of this project is to show the public what being a research means and to explain in a funny and kind way all the news about scientific discoveries. So if you can understand italian.. I would suggest checking it out!

Taking care of the heart cells at the University of Goettingen - thanks to Bran who enjoyed the photograph shooting with so much fun


As you can understand by this first blog, scientific research and science communication have always been one of my principals goal regarding my future. For this reason, as soon as I read the call for applicants of PersonalizeAF, I was determined to be part of this project! I am so grateful that my dream to work in an innovative multinational, multi-sectorial, and multidisciplinary research project became the truth. From the cold and freezing Germany, I had to move to the colorful and hot Spain (it’s only January and there are already 27°C). In fact, I just started my PhD program at the Hospital La Fe in Valencia working with stem cells, but this time I must differentiate them in some specific heart cells: the atrial ones!

Looking at the stem cells at Hospital La Fe - thanks to Nacho who did a wonderful photograph shooting

During my PhD I’ll study both the genetic pattern and the electrophysiological behaviour of these cells, before and after treatment with different drugs. This study will allow us to detect biomarkers that can predict the drug response of the patients with atrial fibrillation. I am really looking forward to share ideas and knowledge with all the ESRs and researcher of the consortium. I am sure that since we all have different experiences and backgrounds this consortium will contribute to better understand the mechanism of atrial fibrillation. I will put all my passion and strength to ensure that my work will influence the quality of patient helping physician to decide a better therapeutic solution.

If I got you interested in knowing more about atrial cardiomyocytes, check out the official Twitter and LinkedIn PersonalizeAF, as well as the hashtag #PersonalizeAF, to learn more about atrial fibrillation and how research is done towards curing it.

Catch you on the next post, the cells are in need of a refill!