I come from Fier, a small city in Albania but I grew up in Argos, a town in South-East of Greece. I studied at the Department of Chemical Engineering at University of Patras for 6 years, where I also carried out my master thesis for another 2.5 years. My main scientific domain during my master was ‘Energy and Environment’ and my research was focused on the crystallization of sparingly soluble salts (e.g. CaCO3) in porous media, in the presence of n-dodecane and ethylene glycol. The results of this work were 3 publications and my attendance in various conferences. During my stay in Patras, I was also working in a cafeteria (yes, I like coffee!). I like reading, dancing and running, but most of all I like science. I feel passionate about engineering and crystallization principles. I like asking questions and trying to find the answer and mainly I want to know how our world works, from simple everyday stuff to more complicated ones, like living organisms. Finally, I really enjoy transferring my passion about science to others. That’s why I trained 2 undergraduate students during their diploma thesis and I was a teaching assistant for 3 semesters.
Université grenoble alpes
start date | 01/10/2017
supervisor | Monika Spano
Crystallization of membrane proteins with an automated microfluidic pipeline
If I would separate my work in two general parts, I could simply say that the first part is about the crystallization of membrane proteins and the second is about the development of a tool using microfluidics to help improve this process.
Many works on the crystallization of chemical and biological systems led to a great understanding of the physicochemical laws and crystal growth mechanisms. Membrane proteins are important, complex and flexible biological molecules involved in a plethora of functions. However, their structure determination remains a challenge, because it is difficult to establish appropriate experimental conditions. Therefore, crystallization of membrane proteins constitutes a major challenge: by establishing optimal conditions (e.g. protein concentration, precipitant concentration, detergent concentration, pH, temperature), we can obtain well-developed crystals, which then enables to define the detailed structure of these macromolecules.
Apart from this challenge, controlling the volume and the size of the developing crystals is also important. In some applications, the volume of a crystal must be at the scale of few nanoliters (0.000000001 L). Therefore, it is necessary to develop instrumentations accordingly, which is the other part of my work. Trying to design microfluidic techniques in order to control and optimize the crystallization process to obtain crystals with specific characteristics.
Skills & Expertise
#Protein Purification & Expression
AstraZeneca (Sweden), January 2020
CNRS in Bordeaux (France), June 2019
University of Hamburg (Germany), March 2019
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland), June 2018
Workshops & conferences
Journées CRISTECH 2020 | Lyon (France), October 2020
Workshop on micro crystallization & injection | Gothenburg (Sweden), January 2020
Sofia has not just been doing research, she has also been involved in science communication activities to engage citizens with science.
Teaching assistant in Biological crystallization at ANF 2019 | Grenoble (France), September 2019
Teaching assistant in Biological crystallization at HERCULES school | Grenoble (France), March 2019
Blogging about science and PhD life| see all blogposts from Sofia: Portrait, “Professional Development and Leadership Training” in UK, Sofia’s updates on its complex of the adenosine receptor, Crystallisation is essential for RAMP and Sofia has a unique way of doing it: microfluidics
Participating to the event “Crystals made of tears: from misery to cheer” at The Devereux pub in central London | July 2019