Lili Milani is a Research Professor and head of the personalized medicine initiative at the Estonian Genome Center, Institute of Genomics, University of Tartu. She defended her PhD degree in molecular medicine at Uppsala University, Sweden in 2009. Since then, her main areas of research have been epigenetics and pharmacogenetics – studying the genetics of inter-individual variation in drug response. She is now actively participating in the implementation of personalized medicine in Estonia in close collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Institute for Health Development. Lili Milani has received the Young Scientist Award by the Cultural Foundation of the President of Estonia in 2014.
You know that feeling when you are discussing something exciting with a friend and you both keep getting more and more enthusiastic about it, so you finally just end up laughing at how excited you got? We just had such a moment with my super-talented PhD and MSc students, while discussing a collaborative project we are starting with a brilliant Estonian neuroscientist working at the University of Helsinki and Karolinska Institute. He was so incredibly good at explaining why we should investigate a specific gene that they have found to be linked with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)-like traits in mice, and how these mice also seemed to have problems with their kidneys and were urinating more often, which are issues that have been observed among children with ADHD as well. And then we had some ideas about how we could address these questions from a human genomics perspective using the Estonian biobank with 200,000 individuals, their health records, and adding layers from publicly available datasets… “and then we can do this, and that, and that would prove this, and that.. and…” and so on! So, in the end we were all laughing at how excited and enthusiastic we all got about the project!
These are precious moments, and I have realized that being a scientist and a supervisor is really about creating such moments, particularly for students! As there is an increasing load of boring and annoying tasks that need to be taken care of as we advance along the career track, we need to remind ourselves that we are here for the fun and excitement of new discoveries, new learnings, and new advancements that can be made in the area of medicine as a result of our joint efforts. This is what keeps me going. And most days, with a smile!