I grew up in a rural town called Dragona, on the outskirts of Rome not far from the seaside. We had goats, still have chickens, vegetables and fruit gardens, make our own wine, tomato sauce and cheese. I spent a lot of time sitting on a fig tree; I would climb to the highest branch I could reach and sit there reading. Everything in New York is almost the complete opposite, most noticeably the pace of life and concept of time.
I was a competitive gymnast for 14 years and when asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ my answer reflected that. Then, in my early teens, out of nowhere, that answer changed to: a scientist. It was pretty much like saying an astronaut, a child’s whim that no one thought would actually happen. Becoming a scientist did not fulfill that dream, it exceeded it in more ways that I can say.
The best thing about being a scientist is that it takes you places. Physically, mentally and emotionally. I never thought about it as a job, but more of a vocation, a way of thinking and living your life…Outside of doing science, I actually spend a lot of time talking about science! For this reason, I founded a non-profit called Know Science, an organization that provides a platform for scientists to engage in public speaking and bring their science out of the ‘Ivory Tower’ of our research institutions to the people.
Simona Giunta is a Research Associate at the Rockefeller University in New York, where she studies how normal cells can become cancerous by ‘losing the plot’ during cell division. A passionate advocate for science literacy, Simona is the Founding President of Know Science and serves as the Director of the Science Communication & Media Group at Rockefeller. Originally from Rome, Simona earned her BSc in Cancer Biology in London at Brunel and PhD in Cancer Research at the University of Cambridge in the laboratory of Professor Steve Jackson, in addition to working at the nuclear reactor in Grenoble, simulating leukemia in zebrafish at Barts Medical School, and kick-starting a collaborative project on nutrition, aging and cancer between Italy and Australia. While in Cambridge, she founded the Women Society of St John’s College, promoting gender equality in academia, and was Science Editor of The Cambridge Student newspaper. Away from science (and talking about science!), she is an avid traveller and has brought her passion for science along in her journeys across Europe, China, India and Australia.