Michela Leonardi ml897@cam.ac.uk

ml897@cam.ac.uk @MikLeonardi

Position

Research Associate

Affiliation

Zoology

Keywords

Ancient DNA, Palaeoecology, Population Biology

I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Evolutionary Ecology Group, in the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge. I am an evolutionary biologist trying to understand the process that shaped the populations

through time because I am fascinated by how very different factors interacted to result in what we see. My research is based on two basic principles. The first one is that if we really want to understand the current status of a species (or a population) we need to know their past. The second one is that the world is complex, and the only way to comprehend it is to combine evidence from different fields.

Thanks to my interdisciplinary background, I mainly study three different kind of evidence: DNA (both from modern and past organisms), reconstructions of the climate through time, and archaeological findings. I then use complex statistical and computational methods to analyse together such different data and as a result, I get the most plausible history of the population I observe.

Some of the questions that I have asked in my career are: how has climate shaped the distribution of horses through time? Do subsistence strategies have an influence on human genetic diversity? Is genetic continuity through millennia only possible in areas where no migrations happened?

I have travelled a lot and lived in six different European countries (and counting…), and in my free time, I enjoy painting ceramics.

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StepWideStepWide showcases the profiles of early career cis and trans women researchers from the University of Cambridge, UK.



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About

This website

This website showcases the profiles of early career cis and trans women researchers from the University of Cambridge, UK, and affiliated institutions. It originated as part of StepWide, a leadership programme that aims to support the next generation of female researchers.

We hope that by making the expertise and stories of early career women researchers more visible (and searchable!), will highlight how much they contribute to the research that is done in the University and affiliated institutions.

Who is it for

This website is designed for a wide audience, be it other researchers looking for particular expertise for a collaboration; the media looking for experts; those that are simply curious about what type of research is done in Cambridge, or those trying to get a clearer idea of what a ‘typical’ woman researcher in this years old institution does (there is no ‘typical’!).

The StepWide programme

StepWide was designed by 3 postdocs at Cambridge (see below for more on Marta, Laura and Cemre). It aims to support female postdoctoral researchers at the University of Cambridge, UK, from any discipline, who feel that taking a step into leadership is not for them. The programme is designed to suit both early and more senior postdocs, providing them with the skills to challenge the current ideas of what a leader is, learn how to raise their public profiles, as well as a close and supportive network of peer-to-peer female postdocs.

StepWide ran for the first time in 2019/2021. We will post updates here when applications open for its next run.

Founders

Laura, Marta and Cemre (left to right on the photo) met at The Postdocs of Cambridge (PdOC) Society, at the University of Cambridge, UK. When the Researcher Development (RD) Pitch Competition was announced in late 2018, they felt this provided the ideal opportunity to work together to develop a leadership programme for women postdocs. They saw a gap in the current leadership RD provision, with a lack of opportunities that challenge current leadership views. Their proposal was successful and obtained funding for a one year pilot, giving rise to the StepWide programme.

Laura Fachal is a Senior Staff Scientist at Wellcome Sanger Institute. She earned her BS in Veterinary, MSc in Biotechnology and PhD from University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. She completed her postdoc at the Centre for Cancer Genetic Epidemiology, University of Cambridge. She is also a Research Associate at Lucy Cavendish College.

Marta Costa is a Senior Research Associate at the Department of Zoology. She did her undergrad in Biology in Lisbon, Portugal, followed by an MSc in Neuroscience at UCL in London. She then moved to Cambridge for her PhD, followed by a postdoc. She is also a Research Associate at Lucy Cavendish College.

Cemre Ustunkaya was a Post-doctoral Research Associate at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. She earned her BSc in Biological Science, followed by an MSc in Archaeometry at Middle East Technical University, Turkey. She later moved to Australia for her PhD in Archaeology at The University of Queensland. She is also a postdoc affiliate at Newnham College.

Funding

Thanks and funding

StepWide was funded by the Researcher Development Pitch Competition which included support from the Researcher Development Programme, The Postdocs of Cambridge (PdOC) Society, the Postdoc Academy, the Postdoc Chairs’ Network and the Careers Service at the University of Cambridge. We are very thankful for their support. We would also like to thank Alba Gómez for her expert support with the first version of the website, and to Arian Jamasb for redesigning and implementing the newest version of this website. Finally, we thank Natacha Wilson and Rebecca Nestor for the advice and support they provided for the development of the workshops.

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