Cergentis news

Mario photo 2

Meet Our Expert: Mario Cangiano

| |
6 min read

In Meet Our Expert you will get to meet the talented people behind Cergentis' success on a personal level. In this interview, Mario describes his childhood years in Italy, reveals some of his favorite hobbies and gives a flavor of our work environment!

Can you tell us about your childhood?
I grew up in Italy, in Benevento, which is a small town in the South. It’s a rather quiet place but some people call it a “big village”. Although I’m an only child, us kids there would go play, eat, and/or sleep at each other’s place. Living in this park together with many families probably shaped my personality. I grew up with the idea of little communities. As far as I can remember, I was always in the same place until I decided to move for my studies.

Did growing up in such a close-knitted community contribute in some way to your desire to discover new places?
Yes, that pushed me to find out what’s out there. To get out of my comfort zone. So, I seized every chance I got to go abroad. That was basically the main reason I went on an Erasmus exchange program during my bachelor’s and why I moved to another town for my Master’s. To further detach myself, I decided to go abroad for my PhD.

Did anyone in your circle inspire you to travel?
That’s a good question. First of all, no one in my family is involved in science and no one else ever left that hometown. My whole family is still there. But it wasn’t just me who ended up moving, my friends also did. So based on my roots, I was different but I also had the chance to meet people that were similar to me. They became in a way a “new family”.

Did you have a clear picture of what you wanted to do after high school?
Study-wise it was rather clear. I was just a little bit in doubt between computer science and biology. But this “dilemma” is kind of typical for every bioinformatician. Eventually, I opted for biotechnology because of my friends. It wasn’t a full rational decision let’s put it like that [laughs]. In hindsight, maybe I would have chosen computer science. Still, during my studies, I was envisioning moving around and wanted to have an international experience.

On a more personal note, one of the kids I grew up with has Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). I saw the development of the disease from the very start. I still remember him playing and running with us before becoming fully paralyzed. This also motivated me to go into research. Having said that, I never had the opportunity to specifically study DMD but went into cancer biology instead. Nonetheless, that was kind of a personal motivation, to try and help others.

Witnessing a close person going through such a life-changing event must have created a sense of urgency when doing research?
As a kid, I didn’t really understand what was happening to the guy. But once I realized the exact disease he was suffering from, it really hit me that something needed to be done. Unfortunately, I now realize that the efforts people put in, in academic research, are probably not enough. I saw with my own eyes what happens when there is not a cure for something. So that really shaped me and gave me a sense of duty when doing science. Not simply enjoying the discovery process but taking it seriously by trying to come up with something tangible. An innovation that people could really use and benefit from.

You mentioned academic research not moving at a sufficiently rapid pace. Is that the reason you decided not to remain in academia?
That’s a good point. Of course, I might be biased but after being in the field for 5-6 years, I noticed that politics is involved in academia... This is also one of the reasons why I decided to move out from there. It was no longer a motivating environment to be in for me.

How did Glasgow ended up being your next destination?
Actually, the location was not predetermined! Before my PhD, I was working in Italy but didn't like the work environment. It was also too much of a technical position. Instead, I wanted to learn how to manage a project.

While looking for fellowships, I came across Marie-Curie, which gives a budget to PhD students to explore their own research ideas. This gives you more freedom to explore a specific research field in the way you want. This was very relevant for me, as I wanted to do something that I could manage myself. I decided to apply for it and my proposal got accepted. The only condition was that this project had to be combined with industrial experience. More specifically, my academic affiliation would be the University of Glasgow but I would be based in the Netherlands within a company.

What a unique experience, to have the opportunity to be exposed to industry while completing a PhD!
Indeed, I wanted to do it because I wanted to see what it would be like to work in a for-profit environment. After this experience, I realized that the differences are not that big when it comes to money [laughs]. So that kind of confirmed my hypothesis that research has become too much industrialized in academia. In my opinion, this should not be the case.

The nice thing about this PhD format, was that I was able to get the rigorous methods from academia while also learning how to keep the flow of process going as well as handling customers and deadlines. In fact, I had to juggle between the company’s projects and my main PhD project, which I had to develop myself. It was quite challenging. When people ask me “how do you feel after the PhD?” I always say that I'm a new person now. That I’m reborn [laugh]. But it was worth it because it showed me what I can do and how much I can grow. After my PhD, I wanted to continue in industry because I felt more comfortable there.

You’ve now been with us for over a year now! How do you find the work environment?
Cergentis makes me feel really comfortable! Everyone is reachable. You don't feel this strong hierarchy. For example, if you want to arrange a meeting, you don’t have to wait for weeks before talking to someone. It's really a place where you feel free to ask and that allows personal growth. It’s not just receiving the tasks and doing them. It's also about deciding what's best for you and the way by which you can best contribute to the company. Everyone here is contributing in his or her own way to the success of the company. It's very rare to find a place like this!

Can you explain to our readers what your responsibilities are?
Within the bioinformatics team, I develop the analysis pipelines but also help improve the existing ones. Data analysis is an important part of the service project workflow and comes right after the [NGS] sequencing stage. It prepares the data for the Service team who further analyzes and interprets it. After which, the report is made for our customers. It’s also a delicate part of the work we perform at Cergentis and hence requires a lot of methodology and rigorosity.

To go into more details, I'm also involved in the statistical analysis part. I try to make our results even more robust and comparable over time. In other words, I’m responsible for making all these pipelines future proof. This is especially important if new tools or methodologies are going to be created in the future. If so, you need to generate a framework that is able to adapt to these novelties.

I'm also more involved in the software development because I'm using Python. Before, I was used to just apply statistical methods with R, so only focusing on data. In sum, I try to expand my knowledge while ensuring that everything is under control and of high quality in terms of software development.

What excites you most about being part of the Cergentis team?
What keeps motivating me is the fact that I'm learning every day. There is still a lot to learn, but I also found out through discussions with colleagues that this is also the case for other team members. This gives me hope for the company because I believe that the technology is powerful and can be applied in many new ways in the future!

Outside working hours, what are your favorite pastimes?
I like to relax with music! At the moment, I play the ukulele. Because of size issues I didn’t want to bring my guitar from home. I also like to sing. I like music in all its shapes actually. I also sometimes record with a friend of mine who lives in New York. We play together remotely. As a child, whenever I was at home by myself, I would stay in my room, close the door, and turn on the stereo. That was how I spent most of my afternoons! Just listening to music. Music is something I always have with me.

Besides music, I also like sports. I go quite often to the gym. But during the weekend, I'm kind of a lazy guy and just like to stay at home and do some readings.


© 2012-2022 Cergentis B.V. All rights reserved.
For Research Use Only. Not for use in diagnostic procedures.