Pierga was born and raised in Cittadella, a little medieval village in the north-east of Italy. He received his BSc (2008) and MSc (2010) in Chemistry at the nearby University of Padua. During his MSc he worked under the supervision of Professor Flavio Maran on electron transfer investigations through self-assembled monolayers of conformationally constrained peptides. He received his PhD in 2016 under the supervision of Professor Mark S. Workentin at the University of Western Ontario (Canada), where he focused on the development, synthesis, and characterisation of clickable and bio-orthogonally reactive nanomaterials. He then joined the research group of Professor Stephen Mann, FRS at the School of Chemistry of the University of Bristol as an NSERC of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow first and then as an EU Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow. In Bristol he pioneered a route to the co-assembly of bio-orthogonally reactive (adhesive) synthetic cells called “protocells” into small spheroids capable of a collective thermally induced contractile behaviour (research article). He also initiated an international collaboration with Prof. Marcella Bonchio (University of Padua, Italy), which opened up a route towards the construction of the first oxygenic protocells from a catalytic polyoxometalate that they developed (research article).
Pierga is now a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at the School of Chemistry of the University of Bristol, where he is pioneering the development of the first strategies to use protocells as foundational units to build free-standing tissue-like materials with complex architecture and programmable bio-inspired collective properties. This innovative type of biomimetic material is called “protocellular material” (research article). In addition to Chemistry, Pierga is a 2nd Dan Judo Coach and enjoys painting.
During his academic career Pierga was awarded numerous awards for excellence in research. The list of awards includes:
2020 – EPSRC New Investigator Award
The EPSRC New Investigator Award is a highly competitive and prestigious award, which supports emerging early career researchers. It is a first research grant that covers the costs for research, the hiring of personnel, and overheads for the Institution.
2017 – Paul de Mayo Award
The Paul de Mayo award was established in 1996, and celebrates high merit in graduate work every year. The awardees are invited to give the Paul de Mayo Lecture at the Department of Chemistry of the University of Western Ontario.
2016 – Governor General’s Gold Medal
Governor General’s Gold Medals were created in 1873 by Lord Dufferin (Canada’s third Governor General after Confederation) to encourage academic excellence across Canada. Over the years, they have become the most prestigious award that graduate scholars in Canadian universities can receive. The medals are presented on behalf of the Governor General, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, and the complete list of Gold Medalists is displayed at the Chancellery of Honours at Rideau Hall. The list of medalists includes Pierre Trudeau, Tommy Douglas, Kim Campbell, Robert Bourassa and many other Canadian leaders.
2013 – Dr. N. Stewart McIntyre Award
Award conferred annually by Surface Science Western to a full-time undergraduate or graduate student for their excellence in research involving surface analysis and/or surface science as part of their thesis studies.