Visitor of the Week: Andreas Zanzoni

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Meet Andreas Zanzoni of the Aix-Marseille University (France). The Italian national working in the Marseille-based institution is part of Dr. Christine Brun’s network biology team within the Theory and Approaches of Genomic Complexity (TAGC, Inserm UMR1090) laboratory. He is currently on campus for his first CSHL meeting — Network Biology — where he presented a poster titled “A domain-resolved interaction network between bacterial secreted effectors and human proteins”. According to Andreas, the poster session provided him with “good feedback and suggestions that would certainly help [him] improve [his] work.”

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
My main research interest is to decipher the molecular dialogue between bacteria residing in the human gut and host cells. To achieve this, I am using computational network-based approaches to infer interactions between bacterial effectors and human proteins and to assess their impact on host-cell networks.

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research?
Gut microbiome studies showed that increased abundance of several bacterial strains is associated to human diseases such as metabolic disorders and cancer. However, for many of these bacteria we do not know how they can contribute to disease onset and progression. I believe that computational network biology approaches can be useful in elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying microbe-disease associations.

How did your scientific journey begin? 
During my undergraduate studies at the Science School of the University of Rome “Tor Vergata” (Italy), I developed a strong interest in understanding how proteins regulate cellular functions by interacting with one another. My professional goal at that time was to become a wet-lab molecular biologist. But then I attended an optional course on protein structure and sequence analysis that ignited my interest in computational biology and protein-protein interaction networks. 

Was there something specific about the Network Biology meeting that drew you to attend?
The strong feature of this meeting is bringing together scientists with different backgrounds (molecular and computational biologists, biochemists, computer scientists, microbiologists, etc.) that apply network-based approaches to understand biological systems. It is the best setting to learn new things and fosters new collaborations. In this regard, I found very interesting the chalk talk session: small groups of people that informally discuss about their work. It made getting to know other participants easier.

What is your key takeaway from the meeting?
The work that has been done by the network biology community in the last twenty years to chart physical and functional interactions in a cell is impressive, and is now enabling us to clarify complex biological problems more effectively. 

What did you pick up or learn from the meeting that you plan to apply to your work?  
I found very interesting the talks and the posters presenting integrative network approaches to combine different types of biological information. It is something I would like to apply to my work in the future.

If someone curious in attending a future iteration of this meeting asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
I would highly recommend participating in this meeting, in particular young scientists. It an excellent opportunity to learn the most recent advances in the field.

What did you think of your first meeting at CSHL?
CSHL meetings have a very high reputation in the scientific community and this Network Biology meeting has met my expectations. 

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
The CSHL campus is a very nice place. I really enjoyed spending a few days here, and I hope to come back soon!

Thank you to Andreas for being this week's featured visitor. To meet other featured scientists - and discover the wide range of science that takes part in a CSHL meeting or course - go here.