I am a researcher in the broad field of Molecular Anthropology, a discipline with a few decades of history which brings together biological anthropology and genetics. I started in 2002 studying biology (scienze naturali) at the University of Bologna, where I became interested in all the branches of biological anthropology and human evolution, and also in language evolution. I then specialized in genetics and worked in the laboratory of Prof. Donata Luiselli and Prof. Davide Pettener, where I did my master thesis on the genetic history of the populations who live at the shores of Lake Titicaca, Peru.
In 2008 I did an internship at the Parc de Recerca Biomèdica de Barcelona, doing labwork for the Genographic Project – Europe. I then moved to the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, where I was a PhD student in the Comparative Population Linguistics group of Dr. Brigitte Pakendorf, studying the history of “Khoisan” populations, hunter-gatherer San and pastoralist Khoe. This was the most extensive genetic, cultural and linguistic survey carried on these previously understudied populations, integrated in a team of specialists from various disciplines, and revealed an unexpected amount of diversity, testifying a rich and complex prehistory. I also carried various projects about genetic and linguistic variation in sub-Saharan Africa with Dr. Pakendorf and Prof. Mark Stoneking: I studied the genetic variation in populations from Burkina Faso, Zambia, Angola and Namibia.
I collected many years of experience working in a molecular lab, improving protocols for the “next generation sequencing” technologies. During the years in Leipzig, I had the opportunity to work together with many specialists of disciplines related to anthropology, in particular with linguists, and I enthusiastically embraced the fruitful combination of genetics and linguistics to study the human past and present diversity. I defended my PhD in 2013, and then I worked as a postdoctoral fellow at University of Bologna for the ERC project “LanGeLin: Meeting Darwin’s last challenge: toward a global tree of human languages and genes”.
From 2015 to 2018 I have been coordinating different projects as a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, in the department of Prof. Russell Gray. I have been focusing on the prehispanic history of the Andes and neighboring regions in western South America, with Dr. Paul Heggarty, and on the congruence between gene and language transmission dynamics in human populations, with Damián Blasi. I have been a tutor for the Spring School of Quantitative Methods hosted by the MPI for the Science of Human History, Jena, where I taught an introduction to genetics and phylogenetic methods.
I am now a group leader at the University of Zurich, where I work with Prof. Kentaro Shimizu and Prof. Balthasar Bickel, and I supervise two PhD students and master student projects. My research develops on two scale: a regional focus in South America, and a global perspective on genetic and linguistic diversity in human populations. I collaborate with universities and research institutions from Europe, USA and South America with side projects on human diversity. I teach a module of Introduction to Genetics and Bioanthropology and block courses and seminars on population genetics, bioinformatics, and phylogenetic methods.
- Opening new perspectives into our past history and our present dynamics from the study of our genetic background.
- Studying the demographic changes behind language diversification, across cultures and landscapes.
- Advancing ethical and social standards for operating in the field of human genetics.
- Evaluating the impact of human genetic studies on the participants and on society at large.
In .pdf format - updated February 2023.