Bioanalysis Zone

A day in the life of… Laura Mercolini, University of Bologna

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Women in Bioanalysis

Laura MercoliniLaura Mercolini

Head of the Pharmaco-Toxicological Analysis Laboratory (PTA Lab) at the Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna (Bologna, Italy).

 Brief biography:

Laura Mercolini, aged 37, has held the position of Assistant Professor in Medicinal Chemistry since 2012 and Laboratory Head since 2013 at the Alma Mater Studiorum, University of Bologna, after a Master’s Degree in Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Technologies and a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences. Laura has lived in Bologna for almost 20-years, but has always in her heart her home land, the nearby Romagna, where she can run away to whenever possible to reach her family.

My alarm goes off…

  • My ideal morning routine: wake up at 5.30am, meditation, jogging, cold shower, healthy breakfast and then off to work, dressed in technical clothing made of natural fibers that help with concentration…
  • Ok, now my real morning routine: a cup of good Italian coffee, the bare minimum but essential for the day, which is always full of work. I quickly check urgent mails on my mobile and then I run to work.
  • Later in the morning there is time to eat something and of course to drink more coffee.

I’m responsible for…

As Laboratory Head and Assistant Professor, my activity is composed of research and didactics, both of which deal with the most advanced and innovative methods and procedures in bioanalysis, focusing on central nervous system drugs, drugs of abuse and doping agents. I’m proud to coordinate a group of seven excellent researchers who are very special people, together with an average of ten final-year students per day, attending the Lab to prepare their experimental graduation thesis. At the PTA Lab we often host Erasmus students, PhD students and researchers from abroad, significantly improving our scientific and cultural knowledge.
Collaborations are essential in my job and the PTA Lab research network counts on a large variety of contacts with several international and Italian institutions belonging to academia, industry and government. These interactions generate interesting ideas for research projects, scientific conference organizations, presentations to international congresses, papers and patents. I also collaborate with some of the main international peer-reviewed journals in the field of medicinal and analytical chemistry as a member of the editorial board or as a referee. Participation in academic organizations is an important aspect of my activity, since I’m a member of the Council of the Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology, the Council of the School of Pharmacy, Biotechnology and Sport Science and of Collegio Superiore at the University of Bologna.

My typical day…

A typical day in the PTA Lab is made up of a morning brainstorming with group members to present and discuss the main needs in terms of experimental assays, data processing, project proposal drafting and exploring scientific literature. However, sometimes the unthinkable happens and our schedule mixes up… that’s the beauty of scientific research! Later in the morning, in front of one more cup of coffee, I carefully catch up on my emails and deadlines for the day. In my working day I try to get a good balance between the time I spend at my studio and the one at the Lab. During the didactic calendar, I usually give classes in Chemical-Toxicological Analysis in the morning and the related practical laboratory courses in the afternoon. In my day, didactic issues are always intertwined with those of research… a busy schedule! I usually travel a lot for work, mainly to attend project meetings in Italy or abroad or to attend scientific congresses to present the most recent scientific research data obtained at the PTA Lab.

The best part of my job…

My job is a special one: never boring and always challenging. It is based on constant study, passion, dedication and commitment, but it is also made of accidental discoveries. In my opinion, no results should be discarded: they are unexpected chances that can lead to important knowledge advances.

The worst part of my job…

The biggest regret is when our young research talents do not get the acknowledgment they deserve – when they have to give up their plans and leave our Italian university laboratories to realize their dreams elsewhere abroad.

After work…

When I leave the Lab, I like walking a little bit in the beautiful city center of Bologna, taking a detour on my way home. It is like a decompression phase after work, breathing day by day the atmosphere of a city, which is both magically ancient and incredibly modern.
I like swimming and twice a week, late in the evening, I go to the pool, which has become quite an inspiring place since I started swimming and listening to good music through my waterproof headphones.
At the weekend I like having special adventures, visiting unknown places, exploring hidden city areas and also searching for good food and wine.
As a member of Soroptimist International, in my free time I offer my professional expertise to contribute to the many problems affecting women around the world, with particular reference to women in science.

I always wanted to be…

As a child, I strongly aspired to be a teacher and, at the same time, I had a weird interest in reading patient information leaflets. Maybe in the following years of my life I mixed these two tendencies up and now here are the results. Well, did I go too far?

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