Brain Drain: Italian in NYC

BY CRISTINA DI LEVA

NEW YORK – Giuseppe Carlucci, 34-year-old promising Italian medical researcher, was recently appointed as assistant professor at the NYU Langone Medical Center, one of the most prominent US medical centers for patient care, education and research.

giuseppecarlucci
Professor Carlucci

Carlucci, like many Italian millennials, moved abroad where, thanks to his efforts and meritocracy, passed from a research scholar position to assistant professor in two years. In 2015, 36% of Italians aged 18 to 34 left Italy for other European countries and North America.

“I’ve never thought about a place where I have been in the last ten years as the place where I would spend the rest of my life,” said Carlucci.

He was born and raised in Lavello, in southern Italy. He attended Federico II di Svevia Scientific Lyceum in Melfi and, like many other teenagers, didn’t know what type of career to pursue. “Medicine, chemistry, and biology have always fascinated me,” he said.

After high school, he majored in Biotechnology at the University of Tor Vergata. “Although I passed the tests for Medicine, I choose a more technological and biomedical oriented major” he continued.

He graduated in 2007 with full marks and honor, and then graduated in Medical Biotechnology at Sapienza University. One month later, he was working at Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS), Italy’s main center for research, monitoring, and public health advice, where he stayed until 2009.

Carlucci claims, “I have specific needs from a professional point of view: I always crave new incentives. I don’t like to settle down, nor to think to a job as my lifetime job. I like changes.”

The need to grow and seek interesting opportunities pushed Carlucci to leave ISS and move to the Netherlands. At the beginning of 2009, Carlucci started his Ph.D. program in Radiochemistry and Molecular Imaging in Groningen.

In 2013, he came back to Rome, hoping that having earned a degree, a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Medical Sciences would have helped him to find a qualified job for his competencies. He started to work for a pharmaceutical consultancy agency; yet, even this time, there were no chances for a real professional growth.

“I lived in Rome for almost a year. Clearly, it’s nice to be home; you have your friends… A great year from a personal point of view, while a not so good from a professional one. I felt like in a cage,” Carlucci explained.

During a dinner with American friends, Carlucci decided to bet on his future. The next day, he sent his CV to American medical centers: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), in New York, and John Hopkins Medicine, in Baltimore. “I just wanted to see if they would have responded me,” he said. A few hours later, Carlucci received an email from the director of the Center for Molecular Imaging and Nanotechnology at MSKCC, Dr. Jason Lewis, saying that they were looking for someone with a similar professional profile. A few days after a Skype interview, Carlucci was offered a research scholar position at New York’s MSKCC, where he started working in March of 2014. He claimed, “As soon as they offered me a position, I accepted it.”

“When you live in the same place for a long time, you are always exposed to the same people, way of thinking, and types of problems. While when you decide to question yourself, he exclaimed, “you enter a new environment where you meet new people who might also have a different work approach from yours. It’s not only a personal growth, but also a professional one.”

As a research scholar, Carlucci works in the field of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging. He focuses on the design of companion imaging agents for determining drug susceptibility and target engagement in the preclinical and translational setting. These agents will help us to understand the molecular mechanisms of drug action, shedding new light on tumor cell pathology and helping to predict why some patients respond well to certain treatment regimes.

Last December, he started working as an assistant professor with a three-year-contract faculty position at NYU Langone Medical Center. He is also radiochemist and principal investigator of his own research group.

“To live away from home, it must be worth it,” he said, “And for what I do now, it is definitely worth it.”

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