Entrepreneurial St Andrews alumni: Giulia Melchiorre
I started my St Andrews journey in September 2011, when I arrived in Scotland for the very first time. With its long-standing, quirky traditions, strong sense of community and amazing academic opportunities, the University of St Andrews immediately made me feel at home. The Women’s Football Club soon became my second family, and opened up new opportunities for personal growth. In my second year, I joined Project Zambia, where volunteers from five Universities across the UK are selected to travel to Zambia to use sport to teach children about HIV and AIDS. Throughout the time I spent coaching and educating children in Zambia, I was continuously challenged and driven far outside my comfort zone. The lessons I learned over those two months proved to be invaluable for my future endeavours.
During my four years in St Andrews I studied Neuroscience, and I decided to continue my studies by completing a Masters by Research at the University of Edinburgh. I was long fascinated by the workings of the brain and questions like: What makes us ‘us’? How do we learn? What happens when things go wrong? During my venture of becoming a neuroscientist I studied the brain at many different levels. Very quickly I learned that studying and understanding diseases of the brain scientifically is very different to the human day-to-day experience of being affected by such diseases. I came to realise that the smallest alteration within our brains can cause a cascade of changes to our personal and professional lives.
Dementia is one of the consequences of these alterations. Receiving a diagnosis of dementia means facing the unknown: every person with dementia is different and therefore no one can really tell you what will happen. Families I met while working at a specialist Neurology Clinic not only faced the struggle of accepting the diagnosis, but more importantly the question of what to do and where to go for support. Pooja, one of the students I became good friends with during my studies, experienced this first-hand. While working as a carer, she spent time with many families affected by dementia, really understanding how it transforms family dynamics – both the good and the bad. Personally experiencing the impact of dementia strengthened our resolve to use our scientific knowledge to develop a solution that enables families to live well with dementia.
As a result of our experiences we founded CogniHealth, a healthcare technology company, where we combine our knowledge from research with innovative technologies to enable personalised care. We have also developed CogniCare, a digital companion for families affected by dementia. CogniCare supports families by providing access to trustworthy information, and connecting them to their local support system. It supports family carers in their role, and promotes independence for the person with dementia.
Working for a start-up makes me step out of my comfort zone every single day. It’s incredibly challenging, but also very rewarding. My advice for anyone looking to start their own business would be to believe in yourself and to be resilient. You will need to step outside of your comfort zone and take risks – but don’t be scared and no matter what happens, take the opportunity to grow and learn from your mistakes. Just always remember why you’re doing what you’re doing.