Federico Torta - Conversations with Lipid Leaders

Posted on March 02, 2022

Torta Ll Int Square

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I work as an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore where I am part of SLING, the Singapore Lipidomics Incubator. Our group focuses on automation, high-throughput technologies for the assessment of the lipidome and sphingolipidome in large human cohorts and the study of protein-lipid complexes. I arrived in Singapore more than 10 years ago but I grew up in northern Italy, where I studied Biological Sciences with a PhD in Biochemistry. I am married, with a daughter.

What do you consider the greatest breakthrough in lipid research in recent years?

I am definitely biased when giving this answer, but I must say the application of mass spectrometry for lipid studies. The amount of information and the level of detail that emerged by applying this technique put back lipids into the spotlight and enabled many breakthroughs.

Did you always envision yourself becoming a scientist? If not, what did you want to be when you grew up? Who influenced you to become a scientist?

I did not have clear in mind that I wanted to be a scientist until the last year of high school. I changed my mind many times when I was young, probably because I found interest in most of the topics I was studying in school. Nobody really influenced me, my family members do not have a scientific background and I chose freely, based on my passion at that time and that is still the same now.

What influenced you to become involved in the study of lipid biochemistry?

I started to become interested in lipids quite late in my career, as I spent quite some time working on proteins. Initially it was the curiosity of using mass spectrometry in a field that was new to me and then my mentor in Singapore, Markus Wenk (director of SLING), was crucial in nurturing this interest, through sharing his passion for this field, showing me a greater vision of it.

How might our understanding of biological systems be enhanced by combining various -omics technologies?

The more information you have on something, the more you can understand about it. Omics technologies will help us to paint a better picture of complex systems, defining them more in detail. Sometimes it will not be enough to explain what the picture represents but it will help greatly and it might push us towards exploring new directions.

What could you see being the next breakthrough in lipidomic analysis research?

A full harmonization of quantitative measurements in lipidomics will definitely boost the level of what we are doing now, improving reproducibility and enabling more applications.

What are your hobbies? What do you like to do outside of the lab?

I used to play football and other sports whenever I was not studying or working. Now that those days are gone, I dedicate my spare time to our toddler. And I praise the invention of audiobooks, so that I can still “read” when commuting or while doing other things.

What class of lipidomic standards have been or would be most useful in your research?

Our group used many different standards, from single species to pre-mixed ones. I believe there is a lot of potential in your Ultimate SPLASH in terms of improving quantitation in lipidomics and I hope we will manage to contribute to this aim.

We would like to thank Dr. Torta for taking time to catch up with us! To learn even more about his exciting research visit this website, HERE