Meet Valentina, our new Biophysics Expert

We welcome Valentina Zorzini, the new Biophysics Platform expert at the VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research! We caught up with Valentina during these busy times to get to know her.

The Biophysics Platform is an expertise hub based in the Switch Lab at the VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research, hosting state-of-the-art equipment, training, and support to research groups interested in measuring protein folding, confirmation, and stability, as well as interactions between proteins, DNA, and other biomolecules. In the past, this platform was run by PhDs and postdocs in the Switch Lab, but it was time to bring in a dedicated, full-time expert. That's where Valentina comes in!

Hi, Valentina! Tell us a bit about you and your science background.

I always loved science subjects in school – biology, genetics, chemistry, astronomy – and it was a no-brainer choosing to study my bachelor's in biotechnology. I first moved abroad in 2008 to do an Erasmus in Lund, Sweden, in the final year of my master's degree. After that, I moved to Brussels to do my PhD at the Vrije Universiteit, founded by a personal FWO fellowship. After finishing my PhD in Structural Biology and Biophysics in 2015, I did a postdoc at the Rega Institute in Leuven. I then moved to Oxford in 2018 – where I learned cryo-EM from scratch – and over the course of 2021 and 2022 I was a visiting Research Associate at the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology, while finishing my personal FWO postdoc. In my last job I worked as a Project Manager at a CRO with clients in the pharmaceutical industry.

What attracted you to the role of Biophysics Expert?

The motivation to switch was that I was really missing structural biology and biophysics! I'm glad I gave other things a try, but after just a couple of years without it I decided I needed to return to my first love. Another strong magnet was the opportunity to work with cutting-edge technology and constantly learn something new – I don't think I'll be bored anytime soon! I'm also excited for the opportunity to apply the expertise and knowledge I've gained from working on this for so many years to support the Brain and Disease Research Center and different labs. The Biophysics Platform is here to tackle specific questions a lab might have in the bigger picture of an entire research paper or project. I like being part of bigger pictures, so this really suits me. I'm also familiar with the VIB and KU Leuven environments and was attracted by their world-class research quality and working professionalism. It's also great to be back in Belgium, and in Leuven more specifically.

What do you love so much about Leuven?

I like the fact that it's both very comfortable and easy to live here, but it's also a lively student city with lots to do. It offers a lot of opportunities for science and technology: from academia to spin-offs to pharma. On the flip side, it also has a lot of nature – I love taking walks in the gorgeous colourful sunsets!

Finally, what advice would you give to young researchers starting out in science?

My advice is to keep an open mind: there are so many different topics and techniques that you could learn, but you can't learn everything! In addition, in academia it usually helps to have an openness to mobility: it's good practice to experience different labs in different countries and how they operate. Back when I was a student, this was just starting out, now there's lots of opportunities in Europe and worldwide – so I'd say, go for it!

Bethan Burnside

Bethan Burnside

Neuroscience Communicator, VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research


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