The sun glistens on the waters of the Adriatic Sea by the city of Bari, Italy. Located at the top of the “boot heel” in the southern portion of the country, the port city is the final resting place of some of St. Nicolas’ remains.
It’s also the childhood home of Giorgia Marucci, Ph.D., HORIBA Scientific’s UK Product Line Manager for Fluorescence.
Marucci’s path to a career in science isn’t typical. In fact, you could say it was inspired.
Although raised in Bari, Marucci was born in Taranto in Italy’s southeast “heel.” Her family moved to Bari when she was a toddler. As an adolescent, she was into scouting, and even became a scout leader. It encompassed a wide breadth of undertakings, including outdoor activities, volunteerism, acting, crafting, camping and exploring.
“You found alternative ways to express yourself,” she said. “The spectrum of activities gave me the chance to experience, make me the person I am today.”
She discovered a love for art, which would play a large role in the evolution of her career.
Marucci stayed in Bari and attended the University of Bari where she earned a bachelors and master’s. The master’s program allowed her also to study abroad in Germany with the Erasmus program, funded by the European Commission, a strong allure for the program.
Following her master’s, she worked in Switzerland and Germany for about three years, eventually returning to Italy. She then turned back to academics, and she earned her doctorate in applied sciences at Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne in the United Kingdom.
Her focus was on heritage science, with a focus on medieval manuscripts. That’s the interdisciplinary study of the materials and providence of man-made objects. She used spectroscopy and analytical techniques to determine the pigments on the books.
“The way I engage with science was mediated by art,” she said. “It might sound weird, because you can think they are two complete opposite worlds. But, that's what happened.”
Marucci had always been into art, art history and reading about it. But her family wasn't terribly supportive in having her pursuing such curricula for her studies. When she finished middle school, she had to decide which high school to go to.
“I really wanted to go to an art lyceum,” she added. “But there are different types of lyceum in Italy. One has a more art curriculum. One is more on classics. So you study Latin and Greek as well. And then there is the scientific one. I really wanted to do the art one, but my parents didn't want me to, because they thought that the scientific curriculum would have better prepared me for whatever I would have chosen in the future for university. And so that's what I did.”
Her initial interests were chemistry and earth science. But during a trip to the university during high school, she observed an analytical chemistry researcher studying binding media of pigments in a 14th century painting.
“I was, ‘wait a second. I can do this. I can combine my interests in art with actual science.’ “
Very interestingly, that very same researcher would have then been one of her supervisors of her master thesis five years later. And she became the first woman scientist that inspired her path.
So when she finished high school, she pursued heritage science.
“You feel you are between two different worlds and you don't belong to any of the two, because you are not an artist, and you are not an art historian, but you are not fully a scientist because it's a science very much focused on that specific application. So it feels a little bit like, where do I belong?”
But it gave her the chance to explore different science fields, from mineralogy, chemistry, physics, geophysics, and non-invasive imaging and spectroscopy.
“I felt very lucky because I received a broad overview of science through the different art objects that you can potentially analyze,” she said.
During her master’s studies, she narrowed her focus in spectroscopy.
“The bachelor was 50/50 science and art, but then when I did the master’s, it was definitely 100 percent science,” she said. “I decided to go down the path of spectroscopy, which I strengthened during the Ph.D. as well.”
So it was art sparked her journey into science.
“That has been the Cupid between me and science,” she said. “It's how it happened. And now I can see probably I've completed my transition. I feel that in the last three years having left academia, I feel I’m more into science than art.”
Her Ph.D. studies solidified that transition when, while studying manuscripts, she focused on developing the right instrumentation for characterizing the pigments and relating these to the periods each were purportedly produced. Since these were old, rare artifacts, it couldn’t be touched, and she needed a non-destructive way to characterize the components. That’s where optical analytical tools came into play.
She also studied paintings during her time spent at the Rathgen Research Laboratory of the Berlin State Museums. One, donated by, of all people, the police, was supposedly done by the famous cubist French painter Fernand Leger in the early 20th century. The team’s analysis had revealed that the pigments that were used in the painting hadn’t been developed until later years, classifying the painting a forgery by the famous German forger Wolfang Beltracchi. She used the piece as a model to identify the best instrumental configuration to analyze painting with a Raman microscope ― it was a HORIBA XploRA™ ― when the size of the artwork does not allow it to fit it under the microscope objective.
Having completed her Ph.D., she decided to leave academia to move to industry, driven also by the interest into the technology behind the analytical instrumentation.
As the product manager for fluorescence spectroscopy, her role is mainly to support the sales people with the technicalities of the fluorescence portfolio. She also provides customers with support for their specific applications, and she develops activities that will boost and promote the fluorescence spectroscopy portfolio.
She works out of Milton Keynes in the United Kingdom. HORIBA Scientific’s main office there is in Northampton.
She sees HORIBA’s greatest opportunities in the two fluorescence instruments that perform A-TEEM, or simultaneous Absorbance, Transmittance, Excitation Emission Matrixes measurements. A-TEEM can be found in the company’s Aqualog and Duetta spectrofluorometers. These instruments allow fluorescence and absorption measurements at the same time, producing faster, more accurate molecular fingerprints.
“These two instruments feature a CCD detector, which compared to others, makes the instrument much, much faster,” she said. “These acquire the full spectrum at one time instead of having to scan each individual spectrum separately.”
“That it's massive benefit for the customer, who will need only minutes to perform EEM measurements (Excitation Emission Matrix) that typically require hours with other systems”
Having just joined HORIBA UK, moving forward, she’d like to soon become more of an expert and source of knowledge for her colleagues. As a company, she wants HORIBA UK to offer customers more than a spectrometer.
“We don’t want to provide just a piece of equipment,” she said. “We want to provide expertise because with the piece of equipment, people just get some data, but if you can give a better insight on what that data means, then, then you really deliver a service to people.”
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