Microbial ecologist Alma Dal Co dies in diving accident

IItalian microbial ecologist Alma Dal Co died last week (November 14) at the age of 33. of the youngest to have been appointed assistant professor at the university.

“The loss of Alma Dal Co this week is devastating for those of us who knew her, worked with her and were friends with her,” said Michael, fellow microbial ecologist and group leader at Ecole Polytechnique. federal government of Zurich (ETH Zurich). Manhart tweeted. “She was a talented scientist who made valuable contributions to microbial ecology, but more importantly, she was a kind, generous, and endlessly enthusiastic person.”

Dal Co died while spearfishing off Pantelleria, a small island in southern Italy where her parents owned a home. She had gone on a boat trip with a local friend. While the current was too strong at first, prompting Dal Co to stay on the boat, la Repubblica reports the two divers entered once they reached calmer waters, then separated during the dive. After resurfacing and seeing no sign of Dal Co, her friend went looking for her and found her body lying on the seabed. He tried to revive her, but to no avail. An autopsy to determine the cause of his death is underway, la Repubblica adds.

Dal Co was born and raised in Venice, where she developed her love for music, another passion she shared with spearfishing. “If I’m not in the office, I’m at the piano. If I’m not at the piano, I’m underwater spearfishing,” his Harvard University profile page States.

According to his Harvard biography, Dal Co earned a master’s degree in piano from the Venice Conservatory before transitioning into science. She obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree in physics from the University of Padua and the University of Turin, respectively, before becoming passionate about microbial biology. In 2019, Dal Co completed a PhD in systems biology at ETH Zurich, where she studied how individual cellular interactions shape microbial community behavior. She then did a post-doctorate at Harvard, where she continued her research on complex biological systems and cell-cell interactions. She then joined UNIL in 2021, where she founded her laboratory with a combination of physicists and biologists. The lab celebrated its first anniversary last October and Dal Co recently won a grant to continue its research, according to a Tweeter from the lab. His most recent article, published in March, proposed a model using the molecular mechanisms behind cell-cell interactions to better understand community-level properties and processes.

“Alma embodied the ideals of interdisciplinary science and was a true modern polymath,” according to a statement from the Department of Computational Biology at UNIL. “She enjoyed connecting concepts, ideas, techniques and people across disciplinary and institutional boundaries.”

In addition to tweeting about his research, Dal Co often posted videos of her playing the piano. “I was really glad there was a musician in our department,” Yinyin Ma, an environmental microbiologist, violinist and former Dal Co colleague, wrote in a memory book created by UNIL. “I watched almost all the clips [she] share.”

“His intelligence, his charisma, his enthusiasm and his passion for science will be missed”, concludes the UNIL press release. “The outpouring of grief and support from the local and wider community speaks to the depth with which Alma has touched us all.

Dal Co is survived by his parents, Mario Dal Co and Margherita Turvani.

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