Visitor of the Week: Amos Schaffer


Meet Amos Schaffer of the Bar Ilan University (Israel). A PhD student in Professor Erez Levanon’s lab, Amos is on campus for the 84th CSHL Symposium: RNA Control & Regulation. This is his first meeting at CSHL and Amos, based on feedback from his friends who have previously attended a CSHL meeting, “expected it to be a really large gathering of scientists and was pleasantly surprised at how it feels to be constantly immersed in an atmosphere of people who all have shared interests.”

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I am working on A-to-I RNA editing where a protein called ADAR changes adenosines into guanosines in double stranded RNAs. My research focuses on the way this mechanism is regulated in cancer cells and on looking for ways to inhibit this process in genes that might be drivers in cancer.

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research?
While I was close to finishing my Master’s degree I went to a conference where I heard a lecture about A-to-I RNA editing. I found it amazing that there could be so many changes or mutations that aren’t coded in the genome but that can have profound changes on the protein level.

How did your scientific journey begin?
I’ve always been interested in figuring out how things work. Growing up my parents were always involved in learning new things, specifically my father who works in plant genetics. These things made me appreciate the amazing complexity of biology and encouraged me to devote myself to studying biology and trying to make new discoveries in the field.

Was there something specific about the 84th CSHL Symposium: RNA Control & Regulation that drew you to attend?
It started with having a poster to present (entitled “RNA editing in cancer cell lines”) but what drew me to this meeting was actually the wide range of topics and speakers. Even though I am working on a specific aspect of RNA processing I enjoy learning of other aspects of RNA research and getting the bigger picture of the biology of RNA rather than just the focused aspect of my research.

What is your key takeaway from the meeting?
That even though there is so much knowledge about RNA there is still so much to learn and understand.

What did you pick up or learn from the meeting that you plan to apply to your work?
One lecture mentioned a technique for single molecule RNA-seq. Because we work on changes in RNA, this technique could be useful for better quantifying the edited RNAs and lower the number of sequencing errors.

The focus of the CSHL Symposium changes every year but what feedback or advice can you share with those interested in attending a future meeting at CSHL?
I would recommend they skim through the abstract book a short time before the start of the meeting. There are a lot of talks and many posters and the topics can be varied. Therefore, so as not to get lost, it helps to have some sort of idea of what the different talks are about and also to find talks and posters that seem interesting.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
The campus itself is quite beautiful and the biology-themed sculptures help with getting into the right mindset for the meeting.

Thank you to Amos 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.