Fellow of the month



Emilia Aiello

Bio pic EA“Our close relationship with vulnerable communities is experiential, dialogical. With this and a shared ground of values, we can foster human agency. And human agency is what brought ten Roma students to the Autonomous University of Barcelona”, says, proudly, Dr. Emilia Aiello, MSC Post-doctoral Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School of Government (HKS) and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). Dr. Aiello is originally from Uruguay but moved to Spain with her family when she was 14, during a period of a deteriorating worldwide economic situation. Perhaps because of this personal experience, she knew early on she would study Political Sciences. As a first-generation college student at the UAB, the strong-willed and wide-eyed first-year BA Political Sciences student found the work of Prof. Teresa Sordé extremely inspiring. She immediately started a fruitful collaboration with the Group of Ethnic Studies and Migration (GEDIME), which would shape her whole career. After her BA and a Master’s degree in Labor and Social Policy, Emilia enrolled on a Ph.D. program in Sociology, advised by Prof. Sordé, in which she studied how Roma women were organizing to improve their living conditions.

Dr. Aiello’s research interests are focused on how the most vulnerable social groups organize at the grassroots level to overcome inequalities. After her Ph.D., Emilia wanted to focus on uncovering ways to maximize the social impact of all types of scientific research, i.e., how to better connect scientific interests and outputs with the societal needs. Her next career move was obvious: to work with Prof. Marshall Ganz at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, credited with devising the successful grassroots organizing model for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Dr. Aiellos’s MSCA-awarded project, Narratives4Change, brought her to Boston, where she found a fantastic collaborative environment with Prof. Ganz and an enriching personal cultural experience. The research developed at Harvard on Public Narratives is already being integrated with the work with the Roma community of Barcelona and informs many of Dr. Aiello’s endeavors, including her contribution as Scientific Advisor of Ciencia en el Parlamento (Science in the Parliament). To see more of Dr. Aiello’s research activities, please follow her ORCID or connect with her on twitter.




Giovanni Sogari

Giovanni-Sogari-headshot“Food choices are highly complex and personal, and most of the time unconscious…” says Giovanni Sogari, a food consumer researcher at Cornell University. He earned his PhD in agricultural economics from the University of Piacenza, Italy, while investigating how consumers perceive sustainability issues and information when deciding for wines. He also did research on novel foods, and is a co-editor of a book on edible insects

His current research combines social behavior and social economics and requires collaboration from several different fields encompassing the full spectrum from hard science to soft science: sensory analysis, social/anthropological economics, behavioral economics, food product development, the knowledge of nutritionists and dietitians, etc. Giovanni’s MSCA-awarded project “CONSUMEHealth”  proposes to combine these expertises to improve healthy eating habits. It allowed Giovanni to spend 24 months at the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University. He came to the US because “trends start in the US and sooner or later end up being introduced in European countries.” At Cornell, he found an excellent work environment and a network of collaborators that he expects to last for the next years. During this period, he kept the conversation across the Atlantic alive, and is now looking forward to his return to the University of Parma. He is expecting to continue the “give-gain” interchange in the knowledge that he enjoyed at Cornell (and Michigan State University, where he was a visiting fellow for a shorter period). Ultimately, Giovanni’s aim is to provide evidence-based recommendations for stakeholders and policymakers. For that, he will take on secondment at the European Food Safety Authority  based in Parma (the analog to the FDA in the US). There, he will promote a scientific debate aimed at the general public, focusing on the best way to approach food. At his home university in Parma, he will introduce his project’s findings to students and colleagues.
If you want to learn more about Giovanni’s quest for understanding what drives consumers to make healthier food choices, don’t miss out on his personal website!





Ainara Sistiaga


Ainara Sistiaga is a molecular geoarchaeologist with a broad background in human evolution and the application of lipidomics to paleodietary studies. In particular, she combines the research fields of organic geochemistry, evolutionary biology and microbiology by studying the lipids produced by gut bacteria in modern and fossil samples. Ainara graduated with a MA in Prehistory from the University of La Laguna and a MSc in Organic Chemistry by the Université de Rennes 1. In 2015 she obtained her PhD from Universidad de La Laguna on omnivory and human evolution, where she explored the use of lipid biomarkers to study the diet during the Paleolithic.

Since then, Ainara has been a postdoc in MIT on the Summons Lab investigating lipids using combined mass spectrometric techniques. Ainara first joined the team as a NASA astrobiology postdoc investigating the paleonvironment of early human sites at Olduvai Gorge, but she also participated in Mars analogue experiments for the Mars Science Laboratory. In 2017 her project “Mind the Gut” was awarded a MSCA-GF postdoctoral fellowship with MIT and the University of Copenhagen, where she will spend the third year of the fellowship. Within the MSCA project, MIND THE GUT, Ainara intends to better understand the role of our microbial partners during human evolution and to advance the study of the ancestral human microbiome by applying a multiomic approach (lipid biomarkers, faecal proteomes and DNA) to study different microbiome substrates: modern and mummified intestinal material, and reference faecal material. To do so, MIND THE GUT is developing new markers of specific bacterial action applying lipidomic and proteomic tools to explore the diagenesis of microbiome substrates. Mind the Gut represents a stepping stone to the integration of the ancient microbiomes in the study of human evolution.



Jamal Toutouh

jamal_headshotDr. Jamal Toutouh obtained his PhD in Computer Engineering at the University of Malaga (Spain). His PhD research was focused on the use of algorithms inspired by nature, such as the evolution of the species or the behavior of the birds in a flock, to address smart city problems. Specifically, he tackled optimization problems related to smart mobility, smart traffic management, vehicular communications, etc., to improve efficiency and safety during road trips. His PhD dissertation, that he finished with the highest mark (Summa Cum Laude), was honored with three prestigious awards (Best PhD Thesis Award sponsored by the University Chair – Aytos-Berger Levrault – on the Development of Smart Governance, Best Spanish PhD Thesis in Smart Cities – sponsored by the Spanish Network on Research for Smart Cities, and Best PhD Thesis Award of the University of Malaga). He collaborates with several researchers of international institutions, such as the University of Luxembourg, the University of the Republic in Uruguay, CENTRIA in Finland, and the QMIC research center in Qatar, among others.


Dr. Jamal is currently a MSCA Global fellow at MIT (MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab), where he is going to explore the application of nature-inspired algorithms to an exciting new research field, Deep Learning. The main idea is to devise new methods based on co-evolutionary algorithms to train and optimize Deep Neural Networks to improve the efficiency and efficacy of the state-of-the-art methodology, and therefore, allow the use of Deep Learning in problems that currently are difficult to address. Jamal is additionally using this new Deep Learning methodology to two significant use cases for our society: cybersecurity and smart cities. Being at MIT allows him to work and connect with world-class researchers in the fields involved in his research.




Xiana Bueno

CROPPED-Bueno Garcia_0254

“I encourage everyone seeking for research excellence and the internationalization of their careers to apply for a Marie Skłodowska Curie Individual Fellowships.”

Dr. Xiana Bueno is a sociologist and demographer at the Centre d’Estudis Demogràfics in Barcelona, and a Marie Skłodowska Curie Postdoctoral Fellow since October 2016. Dr. Bueno was thrilled to spend the two-year outgoing phase of her project in the Department of Sociology at Harvard University. Her research examines family and fertility patterns in postindustrial societies and the role of gender egalitarian attitudes and behaviors, labor-market conditions, and family policy provisions in family formation decisions in several country contexts. In her project, Dr. Bueno combines qualitative and quantitative methodologies along three axes of comparative analysis: cross-country, longitudinal, and historical.