November 27, 2012
Dr. Galdieri (right) with his St.
John’s mentor, Biology Professor and Chair Ales Vancura,
In this first in a series of profiles on researchers at St. John's
making a real impact in their field, Luciano Galdieri '11 Ph.D.
discusses his work as a research associate in the
Department of Biological Sciences, St.
John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Born and raised in
Brazil, he earned his B.S. in Biomedical Sciences and M.S. in
Sciences Applied to Pediatrics at the Universidade Federal de São
Why did you choose to conduct research at St. John’s
I could have done my research anywhere, but I was drawn to St.
John’s because of the professors — they were doing very impressive
research. I knew that if I could study and work in their labs, I’d
have the opportunity to do great things, too. [Department of
Biological Sciences Chair and Professor of Biochemistry]
Dr. Ales Vancura is open to new ideas, and he encouraged me to
come up with my own findings.
What is the focus of your research?
My research relates to cell metabolism and the control of DNA. DNA
function depends on its environment — which means that DNA function
might be affected by hormone levels and the availability of
Through epigenetic events [reversible alterations in the DNA and
associated proteins], DNA senses how the metabolism of a cell
works. We’re trying to learn how the metabolism relates to DNA
The metabolism of cancer cells closely resembles the metabolism
of yeast cells — that’s why yeast is such a good model for cancer
research. We are attempting to modify the metabolism in yeast cells
to determine if we can find a way to similarly change the
metabolism of cancer cells. We study histone acetylation, which is
one of the many epigenetic alterations. By tweaking the metabolism
of yeast cells, we hope to see a change in their histone
acetylation. Then, we will try to mimic the same approach in cancer
What is the real-world application of your
We hope to generate new insights on how to fight cancer. We’re
looking at different targets for cancer treatment that haven’t been
explored yet — maybe there is a drug out there that has not been
offered for cancer treatment, one that could be used to alter the
metabolism of cancer cells, change their histone acetylation and
ultimately kill them.
What is the inspiration behind your
I’ve always loved biology. In high school, I had a professor who
loved it, too. He taught me that if I was passionate about
something, I should pursue it. I’ve always thought of human beings
as complicated puzzles. As scientists, we get to work and interact
with each other to fit all the different pieces of the puzzle
together. Facing new challenges every day in the lab is what really
What is the greatest satisfaction you find in your
It’s nice to have your work recognized by your peers. It’s a huge
accomplishment. But what’s truly gratifying is when a student
learns from your research and you inspire them to do great
Who is your principal mentor in your
Dr. Ales Vancura — not only is he my mentor, but he has become a
good friend, too. He helps me conduct research as well as think
about the future and what my next steps will be. He encourages me
to continue to set goals.
Who is your role model outside of the
My father is a management consultant who has always been very
passionate about his job, yet he makes sure he finds time for his
family. I really admire the way he’s always balanced his personal
and work life. He’s almost 70 years old, and he still has plenty of
goals. He told me he’ll never retire because he loves what he does.
I hope to reflect the same qualities in my lifetime.
What does it mean to you to publish your work in The
Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC)?
My paper, “Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase Regulates Global Histone
Acetylation,” appeared in the May issue of JBC [a publication of the
American Society for Biochemistry
and Molecular Biology (ASBMB)]. Ever since I began my
master’s degree in Brazil, it’s been my dream to publish there. Our
work was also highlighted as the paper of the week, so it was great
to see that others thought highly of our research, too. In Brazil,
it was very difficult to publish in the JBC, unless you’re
in a big lab. When I came to St. John’s, Dr. Vancura had just
published [in JBC], so I knew it was a great place to
What’s the biggest challenge in your research and how
have you overcome it?
In general, it is a big challenge for researchers to publish. All
good articles are peer reviewed, so you always have three or four
people reading and critiquing your paper. Usually they say no, so
you have to learn to deal with rejection. They also can suggest new
experiments, giving you the opportunity to reshape and improve your
research — that’s one way to overcome challenges. Having a lot of
good, reliable data helps, too.
What do you do in your free time?
In my free time outside of the lab, I change diapers. My wife and I
have a five-month-old daughter and a son who is five years old, so
100 percent of my time outside the lab is spent with them.
What’s your next step?
In the long term, I want to learn more here as a post-doc.
Ultimately, I’d like to have my own lab and my own students working
on research in metabolism and epigenetics.
What advice would you give to novice (or prospective)
You have to be passionate about what you do. You won’t get rich
conducting research, so you have to love it. The real reward is the
results of your research and the feeling that you do useful and