Interview with Panagiotis Alexiou, New Head of CF and Research Group Leader
26. Feb. 2018
We bring you an interview with newly appointed Head of CF Bioinformatics and Research Group Leader. Before joining CEITEC masaryk University, Panagiotis worked as a Research Associate at the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on the bioinformatic analysis of High Throughput Sequencing data for various RNA binding Proteins.
You are already more than one month a part of CEITEC. As I can see, you are very active and busy from the real beginning. How was this first month for you?
Indeed I have been here for a little bit more than a month – time has passed quickly between discussions with many researchers in CEITEC, organizing the Bioinformatics Core Facility and my own Research Group, and grant writing.
Where did you come to CEITEC from? And what was your motivation to move to the small city in the heart of Europe?
I moved here from the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine. Located in the beautiful and historic city of Philadelphia, which I consider as one of my hometowns, after living there for almost seven years. Moving back to Europe under excellent conditions to perform my research has always been in the back of my mind, and the opportunities given by CEITEC, as well as the beauty and location of the city of Brno, were strong incentives for my decision to move.
Did you already have a chance to select your team? Or are you still in the process of selection?
I am still in the process of selection regarding my Research Group, I am expecting to have a small team running by the summer. In contrast, the Bioinformatics Core Facility is already in capacity with talented local researchers that were already in CEITEC in different capacities. I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality and scope of knowledge that CEITEC bioinformaticians display daily.
I have heard that your study was accepted to be published in a very nice journal. Can you tell us about?
Last summer I presented parts of a study I was involved in my former position, that discovered a novel ribosome-linked process of canonical mRNA decay we termed Ribothrypsis. The implications of the discovery on how we understand the lifecycle of mRNAs and the impact on analysis of sequencing data will be considerable. The manuscript was recently accepted for publication in Nature Structural Molecular Biology and will be in print soon.
Do you plan to continue with your previous scientific topic at CEITEC or do you have any new plan?
I am planning to build on the expertise I gained over the previews steps of my carreer and marry this with novel technological advancements in the field of machine learning. Specifically, I will probably still largely involve myself with the analysis of the function and regulation of RNA binding proteins, but I am looking to implement new breakthroughs in the fields of machine learning, such as Deep Neural Networks.
What do you like the best about your work and what is the most challenging for you?
I enjoy the pace of my work, in that I have new scientific challenges to deal with daily and get to see discoveries associated with several different projects as they happen. The flip-side of this type of research position, and a big challenge, is the fact that it is expected from me to have both a deep understanding and wide understanding of diverse fields. It takes a lot of versatility and reading to keep up to date with developments in all fields that touch Bioinformatics. To that end, I am trying to promote educational meetings in CEITEC. Currently I am organizing weekly meetings that include small informal presentations from, and for, bioinformaticians - as well as a monthly bioinformatics journal club and open discussion. If that sounds interesting, please feel free to email me for more information.
How about Brno? Did you have a chance to explore the city a little bit?
I have had a little time to explore the city. I have visited most of the excellent museums and tourist destinations such as Spilberk Castle. I am really excited to explore more of the nearby countryside as soon as spring melts the snows.
Was there anything about CEITEC that was challenging or surprising for you?
Maybe I am still in my 'honeymoon' phase with CEITEC, but I really haven't found any real challenges beyond what is expected by any major move. I was pleasantly surprised by the willingness of people to communicate with me in english language as my czech is still almost non-existent. I would especially want to thank the Human Resources and Grants offices for their really valuable help with the setting up period.
Anything you wish for the future?
I hope we manage to create a vibrant bioinformatics community in CEITEC that will be able to keep our part of the research in the cutting edge sustainably.
Interviewed by Jana Šilarová