Nico Filippini is the MRI Manager at the Oxford Centre for Human Brain Activity (OHBA). Before taking on this role in 2017 he was a Grants Associate and Research Facilitator in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences and prior to this a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department fo Psychiatry, using MRI techniques and focusing on normal and pathological age-related conditions. Nico relocated to the UK in 2006 to complete a DPhil at the Department of Psychiatry under the supervision of Professors Clare Mackay and Klaus Ebmeier.
Tell us a little about yourself and what attracted you to working at the University of Oxford?
My research in the field of cognitive neuroscience began in 2004, when I joined the Laboratory of Epidemiology, Neuroimaging and Telemedicine (LENITEM) lead by Dr Giovanni Frisoni in Brescia, Italy. I became interested in studying Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and in exploring the potential of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) techniques to investigate genetic risk factors for neurodegenerative disorders. As treatment for AD moves toward the identification of therapies aimed at specific molecular abnormalities occurring in the predementia stage, the importance of early and accurate identification and diagnosis is increasing, as is the need for sensitive measures for tracking disease development and for defining early changes associated with the disease.
MRI-derived measurements have become one of the principal surrogate markers of treatment response in clinical trials of neurological disorders, offering the possibility to reduce the required sample size and to shorten the duration of a trial.
Working at OHBA I have the possibility of combining my substantial background in research and brain imaging with newly acquired managerial, financial and administrative skills. So my journey has taken me from working in research, to administration, and back again!
What is your vision for the team/project/research you work with?
I work with a great team of people, we help each other out and always keep each other informed about anything that is going on. I believe that good communication is the key to success. As we are part of the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging (WIN), we take part in specific courses for Professional and Support Staff. The main aim of these courses and one of my specific goals for the future is to be able to provide consistent and appropriate support for anybody enquiring about starting a new study at OHBA.
What is currently at the top of your to-do list?
I would like to increase my knowledge about management techniques and processes and potentially get more involved in clinical trials. The University offers a series of short intensive practical courses designed for managers, entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers and anyone working in high-tech companies and organisations. As imaging studies become more and more multi-centric rather than individual projects, it is essential to be able to engage with different people, both internal and external stakeholders, involved in the studies. Learning skills like Project Risk Management, Financial Analysis and Managing Innovative Technology are becoming very important when you want to design and plan a successful project.
How did you get to where you are today?
I spent a good chunk of my working life in research, but then I felt the need to branch out and do something different. I started a more administrative type job and I learnt a lot. I consider the combination of research skills and admin knowledge very important for the role I now work in. Tips I have found useful are: never be afraid of learning something new, always be curious and a step back (or to the side) is not a sign of failure.
Who or what inspires you?
My parents. The first to celebrate my successes and to support me when things did not go as expected. They perfectly sum up a motto ‘There are two things you should give to your children, one is roots, and the other is wings!’
If you were not in your job currently, what would you like to be doing?
I honestly don’t know. I love variety in my job and this is exactly what I have now. Waking up in the morning and being happy with what you do is invaluable. My dream as a child was of becoming a - football player - unfortunately I was not good enough!