Professor Petitto and Team Welcome Ms. Chiara Filippini to BL2

January 23, 2019

January 23 — Professor Laura-Ann Petitto and team were thrilled to welcome today Ms. Chiara Filippini, Biomedical Engineer (MA, Universita D’Annunzio Chieti-Pescara, Italy, and presently a PhD student in UD’A’s Department of Neuroscience and Imaging, Academic Advisor: Professor Arcangelo Merla) as the new NSF-Gallaudet Science of Learning Center (SBE-1041725) and NSF INSPIRE Visiting Scholar to the Petitto Brain and Language Laboratory for Neuroimaging (BL2).

Ms. Filippini’s visit is made possible through funding from several sources, including a prestigious scholarship that she won funded by the National Operational Program for Research and Innovation (PON RI PON RI 2014-2020), in collaboration with the “Next2u Solution” company, headed by Professor Arcangelo Merla (an international leader in thermal imaging analysis), and the USA National Science Foundation INSPIRE grant to Professor Petitto, PI. (#1547178).

Photo: Ms. Chiara Filippini (left center) is welcomed to the Petitto Brain and Language Lab for Neuroimaging (BL2) by Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto, Co-PI/VL2 and Scientific Director/BL2 (right center); Dr. Thomas Allen, Co-PI/VL2 (back center); and additional BL2 colleagues.


Ms. Filippini’s presence represents the exciting union of two international laboratories, Professor Merla’s UD’A’s laboratory in Italy (who is also a Project Head for Thermal Imaging in Petitto’s NSF INSPIRE grant) and Professor Petitto’s laboratory at Gallaudet in the USA (who conducts fNIRS brain imaging language learning experiments with young babies).


Together, Petitto, Merla, Filippini—in important collaboration with the wonderful BL2 science student scholars—will join together to advance science and technological innovations regarding the measurement of young deaf and hearing infants’ emotional engagement during early-life learning.


They will study the powerful impact that the brain’s emotional engagement and emotional and attentional regulatory systems have on the development of human Learning and Memory. They seek to make new discoveries about the impact of emotional engagement on a young baby’s ability to learn and remember language, and when in development emotional engagement is especially crucial. Ms. Filippini’s official Gallaudet University affiliation was extended through Gallaudet Provost’s Office (Provost/Dr. Carol Erting), and Ms. Filippini will be in residence in Professor Petitto’s BL2 for the next 6 months (July 2019).


About Ms. Chiara Filippini

Ms. Chiara Filippini holds a Masters of Science (MSc) in Biomedical Engineering from “Alma Mater Studiorum,” University of Bologna, Department of Electrical, Electronic, and Information Engineering (Advisor: Professor Emanuele Domenico Giordano).


Her research and training have involved significant internships, including research in Toulouse, France at the Institute National Polytechnique de Toulouse, where she conducted research in optoelectronics, and research in Boston, Massachusetts at The Harvard Medical School. At Harvard, Ms. Filippini developed a robust, reliable, and inexpensive microfluidic chip for infectious disease diagnosis in developing countries. Following receipt of her MSc, Ms. Filippini conducted research for two years in a pharmaceutical company in Rome, Italy (ABBVIE srl).

At present, Ms. Filippini is a graduate student in the PhD program in Neuroscience and Imaging at the Universita D’Annunzio Chieti-Pescara, Italy (UD’A; Advisor: Professor Arcangelo Merla), with a particular focus on methods, modelling, and instrumentation for imaging. Her studies include methods and models for the analysis of biomedical images, computational modelling for the neurosciences, and physical principles and technologies for the development of innovative instrumentation for biomedical imaging.


Of note, Ms. Filippini won prestigious funding from the Italian government’s Research and Innovation program, part of the National Operational Program, for her PhD dissertation research entitled “Sensing Robot: Human-Artificial Agent Interaction (HAAI),” which will be based on innovative imaging analyses and interpretation of infant and adult psychophysiological states involving human emotion. The main goal of her dissertation research is to discover new analyses and models that unite computational neuroscience and psychophysiological models to achieve real time classification of human emotional engagement and attention. Specifically, Ms. Filippini’s dissertation research involves the detection and evaluation of emotional states in human infants and adults using the world’s most advanced imaging technology that was pioneered by her UD’A Advisor Professor Arcangelo Merla, called Thermal Infrared Imaging.

Currently, Ms. Filippini holds a 6-month scholarship to advance her dissertation research in Professor Laura-Ann Petitto’s Brain and Language Laboratory for Neuroimaging (BL2) at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. where functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRs) brain imaging is used (Funding: Italian government’s Research and Innovation program, the Next2U imaging company/Merla Director; NSF-Gallaudet Science of Learning/Petitto Co-PI, Science Director; NSF INSPIRE grant/Petitto, PI). Here, Ms. Filippini’s dissertation research will permit her to advance computational analyses and model building that joins Thermal Infrared Imaging (measurements of emotion) and fNIRS (measurements of higher cognition, such as language processing). One goal is to discover the human emotional and cognitive biomarkers of learning in young infants and children. Such biomarkers would permit the detection of infants at risk for learning (especially language learning) even before they can produce language. This, in turn, can lead to early and targeted therapeutic interventions for young children within key sensitive periods of development.

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