“I learnt that dedication, hard work and passion pay off”

Elena Calciolari, Italy, remembers the time when she started to work with the Osteology Foundation. She thinks back on the unique experiences she had with the Osteology Foundation and how this affected her development. Enjoy her account of where it all began and what she learnt along the way.

Elena did her Dental Studies at the University of Parma and University of Siena in Italy. Right after she finished her PhD at UCL Eastman Dental Institute with Nikolaos Donos. She followed him to Queen Mary University of London to work there. Currently, she is a Senior Lecturer at Queen Mary University of London within the Centre of Oral Clinical Research as well as conducting research and teaching Periodontology at the University of Parma.

All good things come in threes

She remembers her first experience with the Osteology Foundation well; it was November 2014 at the Osteology Research Academy in Kiel. She attended the course to get an insight on the histological techniques for undecalcified bone samples and data analysis as well as to learn more about histomorphometry. She was immediately able to apply what she had learned to her PhD. During the course she realised that this Academy was much more than just attending lectures and practical sessions. “The days in Kiel were a full immersion of research, learning and fun,” she said.

 

Group picture of all participants of the Research Academy Kiel 2014

Still full of enthusiasm from the Osteology Research Academy Kiel, Elena participated in the Osteology Research Academy Lucerne 2015. This time she received an Osteology Education Grant. “I got even more out of the whole event this time than during the last Academy. I was more experienced and confident. Furthermore, I was able to ask more questions and interact more with participants and experts. I wonder how much more I could learn if I attended a third Osteology Research Academy,” she said. Because, as the saying goes, “All good things come in threes”. One of Elena’s highlights and most favourite encounters was the career seminar by Niklaus Lang. It was during the Osteology Research Academy Lucerne and Elena was truly inspired. She could listen to one of the legends of periodontology research describing his first steps as a researcher. Furthermore how he faced challenges and found always the motivation to pursue. “He is a true inspiration for younger generations,” she says, still completely taken aback. 

 

Some group work during the Osteology Research Academy Lucerne 2015
Group picture of all participants of the Research Academy Lucerne 2015

 

At both Academies, Elena appreciated the passion and dedication of the experts. They generously imparted their knowledge to all the participants, as well as providing priceless tips related to grant writing and the development of research protocols. The social component of the course, with shared dinners, a cruise on the beautiful Lake Lucerne and moments of fun with the other participants, always perfectly rounded off the Academies. “There I could build a network and make friendships that last for a lifetime – and not to forget about the fantastic chocolate in Switzerland, which unfortunately barely lasts a day!” she said with a big smile on her face.

During the cruise on the beautiful Lake Lucerne at the Osteology Research Academy Lucerne 2015

Full speed ahead

In 2014, during Elena’s first Osteology Research Academy in Kiel, she picked up some useful tips about applying for an Osteology Young Researcher Grant. She immediately took action and applied. Elena is still very happy today that the Foundation believed in her and that she received the grant. It was her first grant as a principal investigator while she was still completing her PhD at UCL Eastman Dental Institute. Her supervisor was Nikolaos Donos.

“I was performing a study investigating from a histological point of view and proteomic point of view the cascade of events that take place during bone regeneration. While analysing the data, together with my supervisors we came up with the idea to use the samples that were already collected to perform some parallel analyses to investigate the resorption pattern of collagen membranes,” she said, explaining the premise of the study. This project was also perfect to put some of the knowledge that Elena learnt on histological and histomorphometry techniques during the Research Academy in Kiel into practice. Another positive aspect of the Osteology Young Researcher Grant was that it allowed her to start a new collaboration with the University of Parma. There they performed some of the experiments. “This project set the beginning of a new chapter of my professional career,” she added confidently.

The Osteology Foundation asked Elena why and to whom she would recommend the Osteology Researcher Grant, to which she replied: “I learnt that dedication, hard work and passion for research pay off. It is also very important to have proper mentorship and to follow the advice and feedback from established researchers in order to successfully carry out a research project.” Elena believes that the Osteology Research Academies are an excellent opportunity to prepare for a grant application. She would recommend the Osteology Researcher Grants to both young and senior researchers as well to clinicians involved in regenerative medicine. She recalls when she applied and added: “I know how difficult it is for young researchers to emerge and to become PIs of their own research projects. In this respect the Osteology Young Researcher Grant provides the perfect opportunity to take responsibility for a project and show that they are independent and capable of developing their own ideas.”

 

 

Additional Osteology Foundation Events

In 2018, Elena attended the successful National Osteology Symposium in London and the joint European Federation of Periodontology (EFP) and Osteology Foundation consensus conference in Segovia. “It was my first time at an international consensus conference. It was one of the most enlightening experiences I have had so far. I was part of the working group dealing with biomaterials and regenerative technologies. Sitting at the same table with legends like Christer Dahlin and Mariano Sanz was absolutely priceless”.

 

Elena with Nikolaos Donos and Nikos Tatarakis at the National Osteology Symposium London 2018
Elena and her working group during the Osteology-EFP workshop in 2018

 

For Elena, the International Osteology Symposium Barcelona in 2019 had the perfect balance between research and clinically relevant lectures. She took part in the Science Meeting, which was an occasion to catch up with previous Osteology Scholars; they discussed interesting ongoing projects in the field of regenerative medicine. “All the lectures were of a high level. I particularly enjoyed the discussions on soft tissue augmentation and soft tissue management. Having all the big names on stage was quite impressive,” she concluded. Apart from all the professional aspects, Elena also praised the social events that were held. “The Osteology 80s night at the Museum Nacional d'Art de Catalunya was a highlight. It was amazing to see all the speakers and colleagues from all over the world in a relaxing atmosphere and all having fun together. Barcelona is a great city; it is nice, well connected, has great weather and friendly people. What more could you ask for?” she said with a smile on her face.  

 

Meeting friends at the International Osteology Symposium Barcelona 2019

 

The best is yet to come

Elena is also a member of the Osteology Foundation Expert Council. She is currently involved and very focused in the further development of the Osteology Research Academies.       

Elena recommends the Osteology Foundation to all clinicians and researchers in the field of regenerative medicine who like to think out of the box. It has a variety of offerings such as THE BOX, Osteology Research Academies, Osteology Grants, National and International Osteology Symposia and much more. This makes the Foundation truly unique for Elena. The Foundation can offer unmissable opportunities to everyone. You just have to be interested in getting updates in scientific knowledge, mentorship, funding for research projects and to networking with other colleagues from all over the world.

“I see my experience with the Foundation up until now as a beautiful journey. I am sure that the best is yet to come,” she says, summarising her Osteology Foundation story.