Faces and stories of the USI Faculty of Biomedical Sciences: Greta Guarda

Greta Guarda

Greta Guarda

Following the call of the Federcal Council to train more physicians in Switzerland, USI created the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences, which in September 2020 shall welcome the first students enrolled in the new Master of Medicine. The fifth USI Faculty offers a number of training opportunities: in addition to the Master’s, for instance, students can choose to pursue a PhD at the currently operative doctoral school , or take post-graduate courses, or even join executive programmes in biomedical entrepreneurship. But there is also the possibility of specialising in the fascinating - and fundamental - sector of basic research in biomedicine at the affiliated institutes of USI - the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) and the Institute of Oncology Research (IOR), both located in Bellinzona. Prof. Greta Guarda , researcher and Group leader at the IRB.

After studying molecular biology at the University of Zurich and graduating from ETH Zurich, Greta Guarda joined the IRB in Bellinzona, from 2004 to 2007, to pursue her PhD, studying in particular T lymphocyte-mediated immunity. In 2007 she went to the University of Lausanne, first as a post-doctoral researcher and then as a senior lecturer in 2010. In 2012, she founded her research group thanks to a professorship from the Swiss National Research Foundation and an ERC Starting Grant, obtained in 2013. In March 2018, Greta Guarda returned to the IRB as Group leader and, in 2019, she was appointed Associate professor at USI. She has also received several awards for her scientific contributions, including the Pfizer Research Prize 2019 and the Friedrich Miescher Award 2020.

Thanks to the doctors and researchers who will follow them in their studies, the students of the USI Master of Medicine will have the opportunity to familiarise with the biomedical research activities that are performed in our region. "The relationship between research institutes and the Master of Medicine has great potential. Not only will our institutes benefit from the presence of the students - several have already contacted us to carry out their Master’s dissertation at the IRB - but I also believe that the possibility for students to get in touch with basic and preclinical research, aimed at understanding and curing serious diseases, will give them new perspectives", explains Dr. Guarda.

Professor Guarda started her career at the University of Zurich with studies in ethology, but soon chose to follow a different path: "The lectures in molecular biology and immunology revealed a fascinating world to me, so I decided to change. It’s nice to discover new fields during one’s studies". This decision led her to several successful stages in her career and then to return to Ticino as Group Leader at the IRB. She also remembers, with a smile, an anecdote about her studies as a student related to the practice sessions in the laboratory (the so-called ’Praktikum’) on Friday mornings: "Since Thursdays in Zurich often ended with long evenings in good company, precision during the Praktikum was sometimes not at the highest level... fortunately, we only practiced with laboratory test tubes!"

For many students coming from the north of the Alps, Ticino will be a place to explore and learn more about its unique features. Guarda recommends the Alta Leventina: "a beautiful walk that I would recommend is the Strada degli Alpi, easy to organise even by public transport. Departure from Airolo for good walkers or from PesciŘm (middle station of the cable car). Then a magnificent and relaxing walk towards the Val Bedretto, among the larch trees and various alpine pastures, with the possibility to buy cheese - because the body wants its share too!".