Italian Ambassador visits Diamond Light Source

Ambassador Pasquale Terracciano met top scientists and saw cutting-edge facilities at the leading UK scientific facility

Official visit by the Italian Ambassador Pasquale Terracciano, and his wife Karen Terracciano, and Roberto Di Lauro, Italian Scientific attache.
Official visit by the Italian Ambassador Pasquale Terracciano, and his wife Karen Terracciano, and Roberto Di Lauro, Italian Scientific attache.

The Italian Ambassador, His Excellency Pasquale Terracciano, and Roberto Di Lauro, the Scientific attaché, visited Diamond on Friday 21st March to see first-hand the role Italian scientists and technical experts are playing at one of the world’s most advanced light sources.

Like many world leading research centres, Diamond is a cosmopolitan place. Over 40 different countries are represented and a large proportion of the scientists are from overseas. During his visit the Ambassador met with around 20 of Diamond’s Italian staff as well as a number of Italian scientists from other key facilities located on the Harwell Science & Innovation Campus.
 
Diamond is a hub for pioneering research, and the Ambassador’s tour included an introduction to the state-of-the-art equipment and the scientific progress yielded by the UK’s synchrotron. The Ambassador was given a rare view inside the tunnels that carry the electrons which produce Diamond’s brilliant light, accompanied by Trevor Rayment, Director of Physical Sciences and Riccardo Bartolini, Head of Accelerator Physics. Diamond contains 23 experimental laboratories known as ‘beamlines’ and the group visited four of these. Each beamline is finely tuned to help scientists carry out research that could prove impossible without synchrotron light.

 

Giannantonio Cibin from Diamond, B18, with the Italian Ambassador Pasquale Terracciano and his wife Karen Terracciano.
Giannantonio Cibin from Diamond, B18, with the Italian Ambassador Pasquale Terracciano and his wife Karen Terracciano.
The first stop on the tour was B18, where the group met Giannantonio Cibin, senior beamline scientist. Giannantonio explained the work scientists were doing to preserve the Tudor warship, the Mary Rose. This ancient flagship sunk in 1545 during a battle with a French invading fleet. It was raised over 500 years later in 1982, but exposure to oxygen after many years under water caused the ship to begin decaying. Detailed studies using synchrotron light are helping scientists to develop ways of protecting the vulnerable wood and ensuring the long-term preservation of this historical relic.
 
Approximately 40% of Diamond’s work involves the life sciences, and during his visit to B22 the Ambassador learned more about the work Diamond is doing to provide new tools in the fight against some of the world’s most devastating diseases. Principal beamline scientist Gianfelice Cinque told the group about novel infrared techniques with applications for cancer research and regenerative medicine. Thanks to current work by scientists at Diamond, pioneering synchrotron techniques could provide a new way of screening patients for the early signs of cancer, thus indicating personalized treatment options and improving outcomes for patients.
(L-R): Marco Mazzorana from Diamond, with Italian Ambassador Pasquale Terracciano
(L-R): Marco Mazzorana from Diamond, with Italian Ambassador Pasquale Terracciano
From here, the Ambassador went to B23, where he heard about the progress being made in Parkinson’s research at the synchrotron. Giuliano Siligardi, principal beamline scientist, talked about how this beamline was being used to investigate new methods of treating Parkinson’s disease, including an antibiotic that has been shown to inhibit the disease symptoms and block the protein that causes neurodegeneration.
 
Finally, during a visit to I03 – the beamline where very complex biological structures, such as whole viruses, can now be studied – the Ambassador learnt from post doctoral researcher Marco Mazzorana how Diamond’s MX beamlines have been used to develop an innovative new vaccine for foot and mouth disease virus (FMDV). This disease plagued the English countryside in 2001 and again in 2007 and is still endemic in much of the world; but scientists have used the MX beamlines to develop a new type of vaccine which is totally non-infectious and thus cheaper, safer and more effective.

 

Following this insight into the pioneering research taking place at the synchrotron the Ambassador enjoyed traditional English afternoon tea with Italian scientists and staff. His Excellency Pasquale Terracciano commented: “I’m proud to find such an important contribution by Italian scientists and technology to this very important research centre - a true beacon of global scientific research.”
 
Andrew Harrison, Diamond’s CEO, added: “As a world-class scientific facility, our success depends crucially upon attracting the very best scientists to come and work here, amongst whom are many eminent Italian scientists. We look forward to an ever brighter future in which Italian scientists continue to play a big role.”Diamond is an advanced scientific facility used by over 3,000 academic and industrial researchers across a wide range of disciplines including structural biology, energy, engineering, nanoscience and environmental sciences. It works like a giant microscope, harnessing the power of electrons to produce light 10 billion times brighter than the sun - scientists use this light to study anything from fossils to jet engines to viruses and vaccines.
(L-R): Prof Andrew Harrison with  Karen Terracciano and the Italian Ambassador Pasquale Terracciano.
(L-R): Prof Andrew Harrison with Karen Terracciano and the Italian Ambassador Pasquale Terracciano.