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A Scientist At The Cutting Edge


The societal stereotype of the wild-haired, nerdy scientist sporting black horn-rimmed glasses, a lab coat, and waving a test tube doesn’t jibe with scientists seen at the regal research institutes lining San Diego’s Torrey Pines Mesa. A case in point — those at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology, an international leader in immunology research with distinguished scientists who focus on complex disease issues by day and relax with widely varying extracurricular activities. There’s a painter of intricate Japanese art, a scientist whose architectural drawings could rival a seasoned professional, a faculty member who composes and performs music with his own band, and a scientist who fences and performs opera, to name a few. The fencing scientist, Alessandro Sette, Dr.Biol.Sc., an Italian native and world expert in vaccine biology, says he learned how to fence as a kid in Italy. “When I came to San Diego, I continued my instruction with the Cabrillo Academy of the Sword,” says Sette, who practices with the Academy a couple of times a week, is nationally ranked, and participates in tournaments. In addition, he makes time for his other hobby — opera — and has appeared in several productions with the San Diego Opera. Sette views his pursuits as a fun outlet, but also sees parallels between art and science, both being activities that require creative thinking. Both are also decidedly un-nerdy. Mitchell Kronenberg, PhD, the Institute’s president and chief scientific officer, himself an avid jogger, agrees and says Sette is an athletic, accomplished researcher who is much more a reflection of the typical scientist than societal caricatures. “We joke about the geeky depictions because we know science is actually a vibrant environment that attracts dynamic individuals,” he notes. “The nerdy stuff is not science. It’s science fiction.”   BONNIE WARD


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