Francesca Rizzato


I did my undergraduate studies in Physics at the University of Padova (Italy), where I first focused my attention on Particle Physics. Thanks to the Erasmus Programme I spent my first year of Master in Paris (Université de Paris Sud-XI). There, I also had a four month internship at the Laboratoire de l'Accélérateur Linéaire, studying the decay of Higgs Boson into four leptons under the supervision of prof. L. Iconomidou-Fayard and prof. A. Schaffer.

During my last year of Master I finally got acquainted with Biophysics and developed my Master thesis at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA, Trieste), as Undergraduate Fellow. Here, under the joint supervision of prof. Cristian Micheletti (SISSA) and prof. Enzo Orlandini (University of Padova), I analysed the dynamic properties of coarse-grained models of linear and circular DNA in nanochannels.

Now, under the supervision of prof. Alessandro Laio, I am doing my last year of PhD in Physics and Chemistry of Biological Systems at SISSA, working at the edge between biophysics and bioinformatics. The main goal of my work is to develop statistical models for protein sequence evolution. In particular, I am investigating the influence of the among-site substitution rate variability on the hypothesis of Markovian dynamics and its connection with the spatial correlation of mutations. In this framework, I also proved that data from Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNP) can be used as a trustworthy source of point accepted mutations and can be employed to build substitution matrices suitable to align protein sequences at high sequence identity. Besides, I am studying the relationship between the evolution dynamics at the codon level and at the amino acid level, focusing on the consequences of the genetic code and the codon usage bias. The principal goal of this investigation is to test whether it is possible to extract information on amino acid similarity from patterns of accepted mutations, by cleaning the effect of genetic code out.