elisa galliano

*written by Ailie because Elisa can’t stand talking about herself…*

Elisa’s electrophysiology career began when she was still an undergraduate student in Pavia (Italy), blind patching cerebellar granule cells in Egidio D’Angelo’s lab. To her supervisor’s endless amusement, the first thing that she tried to seal was the harp, so she keeps on telling us that nothing that we do while learning to patch will be dafter than that. Once she eventually manged to targed a neuron instead of nylon strings, she was hooked by the concept of listening in directly to the conversations of the cells themselves. During her Master Elisa split her time between Pavia and Rotterdam (The Netherlands), thanks to an Erasmus grant. Having begun to patch so early, by the time she moved full time to Holland to pursue her PhD in the De Zeeuw lab she could branch out and learn many more techniques. During her PhD, Elisa received a comprehensive training in cellular, system and behavioural neuroscience, studying how learning and memory occur at both the cellular and behavioural level in the cerebellum.

To broaden her experience with neuronal plasticity, Elisa then moved from working with adult motor systems to developing sensory systems. Thanks to a Sir Henry Wellcome Fellowship, she spent four years investigating experience-driven plasticity in bulbar dopaminergic interneurons at King’s College London with Matt Grubb and Harvard University with Venki Murthy, using techniques such as in utero and neonatal manipulations, in vivo chronic imaging, and olfactory operant conditioning.

In 2018, Elisa founded her lab here at Cambridge and quickly became embedded into life in our department and Cambridge Neuroscience. The Covid19 pandemic was of course a huge obstacle, indeed she tells us she feels like she has started her lab twice in the course of a couple of years. Luckily for us she persevered, and we are now fully up and running.

Elisa has a constant stream of colleagues, previous students and sausage dogs (!!!) dropping by for a catch-up, laugh, or a spot of advice – always paired with coffee and a biscuit. In the lab, Elisa fosters a relaxed and supportive environment. She pushes us to do our best with honesty, understanding and encouragement because she knows that our finest work will come from us being happy, not stressed. She often joins us in the lab to get a hit of ‘real’ science in between all the emails and meetings, whether that means looking after the animals, soldering wires, or teaching us new techniques. Elsewhere around Cambridge, Elisa may be found handing out madeleines to undergrads as she teaches them about olfaction through Proust; trying to spot the elusive hedgehogs in the gardens of her college, Fitzwilliam; fighting for accessibility and diversity through the admissions and publishing processes; posting pictures of her hypoallergenic and very fluffy Siberian cats on Twitter; or lost in a novel, ideally part of a 14-books historical fiction series.

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