Silvia Onesti


Silvia Onesti obtained a degree in Chemistry from the University of Pavia and moved to Imperial College London where she carried out a PhD in Biophysics under the supervision of Peter Brick and David Blow. She continued her training in protein crystallography at Imperial as a research fellow, focussing on the structural aspects of translation, and in particular the structure of lysyl-tRNA synthetases in different stages of the aminoacylation reaction. 

After a brief spell at the University of Pavia as a CNR Research Scientist (ex-Articolo 36) and at l’École Polytechnique (Palaiseau, FR) as Maître de conférences, she returned to Imperial College as principal investigator in the Biophysics Section of the Physics Department, and later on in the Department of Life Sciences. She developed a research program focused on the Structural and functional analysis of proteins involved in basic genetic processes such as transcription and DNA replication. Her main achievement include the determination of the crystal structures of a number of RNA polymerase subunits, both from yeast and from archaeal cells, as well as the use of single particle electron microscopy to understand the conformational changes that underpin the mechanism of action of the replicative MCM helicases. 

Since 2008 she moved to Italy as Head of the Structural Biology Laboratory at the Elettra synchrotron facility. The main focus of the laboratory is the structural characterisation of proteins and protein complexes involved in the process of DNA replication in eukaryotic cells. This is a crucial events in the cell cycle, underpinning cellular processes with important consequences such as cell proliferation and genome stability. Failure to control these processes causes chromosome instability, which can lead to the development of cellular abnormalities, genetic diseases and the onset of cancer.

Silvia has been recently elected a member of the Biological Macromolecules Commission within the International Union of Crystallography.