A PhD Career Story in the Field of Neurosciences and Diabetes

Curious how a scientific career inspired by Dolly sheep looks like? Interested to know more how to maximize your PhD student time or what are the top 5 tricks from a Karolinska Institutet PhD to get into great experiences?

I had a pleasure to have as a first BioSnapped quest always positive, energetic and smiling Teresa Daraio who is currently a final year PhD student at Karolinska Institutet and has a great interest towards science and specifically the science related to diabetes.

Teresa ig Final.png
Teresa is  from Italy and she did her bachelor and masters degree at University of Bologna. After her masters studies Teresa wanted to explore the world outside Europe and went to Australia for postgraduate studies. Her topic was related to neurosciences, she was studying neurons in the retina. At the moment Teresa is finishing her PhD at Karolinska Institutet regarding to diabetes and endocrinology.


I guess all scientists have a specific moment in their life when they realize that they want to go into science. As I had mine and so did Teresa had her moment of “life science enlightenment”.It was at age of 13 while reading about Dolly sheep.

“I was 13 years old when I was reading from the newspaper about the Dolly sheep– I was so interested how the cloning was done. During that time I didn’t know so much about biology  but I was so astonished, it was like from scifi movies!”

It’s no wonder that Dolly sheep,  the first mammal cloned with nuclear transfer technique has been a inspiration for Teresa. The birth and the life of Dolly was a great moment for modern biotechnology. Without a doubt Dolly has been an inspiration for many other scientists during the end of 90’s and beginning of millennium.

“I started to study (Biotechnology, life& molecular sciences) and I was very fascinated.

I don’t regret at all this choice!”

International experiences

During her master’s degree Teresa decided to make her dreams to come true.

“I always dreamt about working at Karolinska Institutet because it’s the place where the Nobel prizes in physiology or medicine are given”

Teresa decided to do an internship at Karolinska Institutet. With the help and network of her supervisor she got an initial contact to the department of neurosciences.

“The first time you are abroad, you face people who come from all over the world, everything looks different… and I have to say that I didn’t know anyone in Stockholm, so it was quite difficult at the beginning. But it was amazing experience!”

At first the exchange was a bumpy road time to time. Teresa didn’t have any network in Sweden and it was her first time abroad. Teresa highlights that her research team helped her a lot through the bumpy road over the time. Following, her exchange time was great!

Afterwards Teresa continued with her studies in Bologna but she was still hungry for further international experiences! Second time Teresa headed to abroad after her master thesis to do postgraduate studies at University of Sydney and afterwards Sweden was calling again.

“In science you can’t really stay in same country. You have to move, meet new people and try different experiences.”

Falling in love with science and research

During my and Teresa’s chat she described Karolinska to be her first love. It’s no wonder as during her exchange studies at Karolinska she decided that she would pursue a career in life sciences. Teresa describes that she found her place in scientific circles, she felt that research was really rewarding career choice. She also mentions that there was also luck involved why her interest grew so much during her time at Karolinska: “the experiments where often working, haha! I should have know that in research that doesn’t happen too often :)”

“I was setting up and doing experiments for the first time on my own. You know, thinking about how to set up experiments, I went to many lectures and met a lot of scientists. And it was so rewarding! 

  I decided that I wanted to continue with research.”

Teresa enjoying her time at Australia. She was doing post graduate studies at University of Sydney within neurosciences.

Jumping into new field for PhD studies

After finishing her time at Australia, Teresa decided to do a PhD. She wanted to learn more about different fields. At first it was challenging to find PhD placement from another field as her connections were mostly within neurosciences. However, after extensive search she got into a project from Karolinska which was done in collaboration with a Slovenian university. The project was in the field of diabetes and endocrinology, “it sounds very interesting, why not” thought Teresa!

“I was looking at different positions but it was quite difficult  because you don’t really don’t know what to expect, what you are gonna start… And the PhD lasts at least 4 years so you should be really careful when picking the project and the research unit.”

While talking with Teresa it’s obvious that moving into diabetes field has been the right choice for her. She highlights that it has been very rewarding to do her PhD with collaboration with University of Maribor. During her PhD she has done multiple visits in Slovenia which gave her opportunity to learn more about cell physiology.

Teresa did also a one month internship in a start-up developing digital health products for diabetes patients. Teresa was working in the user success team. This team makes sure that the communication with the users is efficient and that the needs of the users are fully understood.

Getting most out of PhD studies

“Doing a PhD has been an incredible value for me. I gained a lot of skills I would have not gained otherwise.” Besides the PhD itself Teresa also highlights the importance of other activities such as volunteering and internships. She mentions that many skills such as, additional project management skills or marketing skills can be valuable for you during you career, also in academia. Teresa’s comment for the marketing skills she gained from volunteering in a career event”I use those in order to get money (for my research) and to convince other scientist that the research I’m doing is kind of great :)”

To Do List:

•Do internships– great way to get to know the industry

•Do volunteering– learn new skills and meet new people

•Check your university’s career service– they have great courses and other possibilities to expand your view about career choices

Apply the knowledge and skills you learn from your volunteering/ internships.

Do you see that smile? A bulletproof evidence that life science is something Teresa loves! A poster presentation regarding to Teresa’s PhD project.

Life after PhD?

“I would love to continue working within life sciences. I also love to communicate science. Furthermore, think it’s extremely important to find solutions for diabetes and I think that field is extremely interesting”

Teresa’s 5 tips for achieving great experiences

•Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

•Be open about your dreams and plans, people are willing to help you.

•Everyone has to travel at least once alone. You can manage on your own. Exchange is a unique opportunity for that!

• The more you interact with people, the more you know.

•Read and follow social channels. If you see people with an interesting job, don’t hesitate to contact them to know more about it!

Curious to know more about Teresa? Check her LinkedIn (and ask many questions)!

Do you have a clear moment when you fell in love with life sciences or moment when you knew that you want to study them? Please share your story in the comment field!

Finally, I want to thank Teresa Daraio for being BioSnapped ! 


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