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Matilde Balbi

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?
A: I am from Torre del Greco, a town very close to Naples, Italy. I got my Bachelor and Master’s degree in Medical biotechnology at the University of Naples Federico II. Then, I moved to Dublin where I worked as a research assistant at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland on traumatic brain injury. When the lab moved to Munich, Germany, I was offered a PhD position to work on characterizing the cerebrovascular function of mice in health and disease.

Q: What compelled you to pursue stroke research?
A: Looking at the changes in the brain that occur after traumatic brain injury, I became interested in the functional and structural integrity of the cerebral vasculature under several pathological conditions. During my PhD, I studied vascular function in genetic mouse models of small-vessel disease – a degenerative disease characterized by microinfarcts, white matter lesions and lacunar infarcts. I also investigated vascular function after subarachnoid haemorrhage – a subtype of stroke. Having to look directly at the massive damage caused by stroke in such brief an instant made me realize the urgency for researchers to explore any and all avenues to improve the current therapies of recovery after stroke.

Q: What is the focus of your research?
A: My research aims to find strategies to improve recovery after stroke using animal models, with a focus on mimicking realistic conditions during stroke induction and rehabilitation. My approach to this is: to automatize the procedures so as to minimize confounding factors and variability introduced by human manipulation, and to investigate recovery protocols that can be translated to the bedside.

Q: At what stage are you in your research, and what are your future plans?
A: I am currently developing and calibrating the tools needed for the automation of stroke induction, monitoring and rehabilitation. My immediate future plan is to begin testing and data collection under this novel paradigm as soon as the tools are ready. The future plan for my career is to find a position as principal investigator in an academic environment that allows me to apply the full extent of my ideas to the investigation of recovery after stroke.

Q: How do you and others benefit from being part of the National Trainee Association?
A: The National Trainee Association provides early-career investigators with an environment where we can exchange knowledge from a wide variety of angles in a way that allows us to integrate knowledge and gain insight, taking into consideration important components that we may have overlooked and feedback from researchers with a direct link to the clinical setting.

Q: What other interests do you have?
A: I have always been fascinated by the common history and social behaviors that unite humanity across the vast geographical and cultural diversity, which translates into a keen interest in travelling more than I can afford.