University of Dundee

Virginia De Cesare Q&A

Born in Rome, Italy, Virginia De Cesare is a Senior Research Associate in the laboratories of Dr Paul Davies and Dr Satpal Virdee. Before the lockdown Virginia worked on deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs) and since the March has refocused her research effort on COVID-19.

What COVID-19 project are you working on? 

Unfortunately, SARS-CoV-2 is a smart guy and uses enzymes, like tiny, tiny molecular scissors, to hurt the human body. What we are trying to do now, as a team effort between the Dundee Drug Discovery Unit and the groups of Paul Davies and Yogesh Kulathu, is to look for drugs that can inactivate these enzymes and make the virus less dangerous.

What do you normally work on?

Normally I work on deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs) that are found in the human body. These enzymes do a great amount of work and are very important in both health and disease.

What’s your typical day in the lab and what was it like beforehand?

These days, a lot of the meetings are video conferences. Before the pandemic there were many more opportunities to have fun, social interactions and chit-chats.

What’s it like to work in the School of Life Sciences?

It’s a vibrant community with a lot of researchers working in very different fields. At the moment it’s fairly quiet and when you meet some of your friends the scientific discussion needs to be combined with a warm smile and a nice word. And of course, you have to keep at least 2 meters distance.

Why did you decide to come to Dundee?

The facilities, the active collaboration between academia and industries and the “can-do” attitude.

What inspired you to become a scientist?

When I was a child, teachers where talking a lot about how cells make up our body and most of the natural world. But they never let me see them. So, I have been obsessing about seeing cells for a while. I had to wait for more than 10 years but eventually I got to see them! Now I am actually looking at what happens inside the cell. Isn’t that great?

What activities are you undertaking to de-stress?

I talk. A lot.

What can’t you wait to get back to once lockdown is lifted?

Indoor climbing!

Quick fire questions:

  • Tea or Coffee? Coffee
  • Morning or Afternoon? Both
  • Animal Crossing or Tiger King? I am too old for this, what are they?