Meet Valeriya Malysheva

With the lovely spring weather of the last month came the arrival of Valeriya Malysheva as a new PI at the VIB-UAntwerp Center for Molecular Neurology (CMN). She will lead the Computational Neurobiology lab with an excellent cocktail of expertise, enthusiasm, and ambition.

Valeriya Malysheva
Valeriya Malysheva

By Baukje Bijnens, PhD student in the lab Of Renzo Mancuso at CMN.

Welcome to VIB, Valeriya! So, how did you end up at CMN? ​

“I always wanted to work in the field of brain biology. During my PhD I started investigating the neuronal cell fate acquisition process. Then, during my postdoc, I dipped into chromatin organization and its role in the regulation of cell fate. At the end of my postdoc, I wanted to move into the field of neurodegenerative disease while combining it with my interest and expertise in chromatin organization. So, it was a choice between opening my lab either in an institute specializing in brain biology or chromatin organization. While a chromatin-focused space is of course very valuable, I wanted to be around people who had a deep understanding of the biological questions that I aim to answer. When I visited VIB back in November, I absolutely loved the place as it united my ambitions with an extremely supporting workplace. So here I am!”

What is your vision for the Computational Neurobiology lab?

“I am super excited about doing both experimental and computational research and want to encourage people to follow me to build a team of scientists who are as excited as me to combine these two areas.”

“In terms of the research direction for my lab, I want to bring the research studying the role of chromatin organization in gene regulation into brain biology and neurodegenerative diseases and bring the results of our research to the clinic. From a clinical perspective, my plan is to pinpoint factors (genes, isoforms, variants) that are key to disease development, but would not otherwise be identifiable without considering chromatin organization. This will broaden the space of possible biomarkers and open new avenues for designing or repurposing drugs to take forward to clinical trials. I want to explore options to bridge this gap between research in chromatin organization and the clinic and I think that the VIB is the ideal place to do it. One of the reasons I joined CMN is a very strong and effective knowledge transfer pipeline between bench and business that is set up here.”

“Another direction I am planning to develop is greater, and more efficient, use of the vast amounts of existing public omics data. Right now, there is so much omics data already available, sitting and waiting to be used. Now is the time to harvest all this information. Of course, I will also generate new data when it is missing, but I want to capitalize on all that is out there already, and what’s great is that today we have the means to do so! I believe that we can integrate this data in a meaningful way by using and developing computational, statistical and machine learning tools, and applying them to study neurodegenerative disease. Really very exciting times!”

Do you have a favorite paper or project that you did?

“Probably the one that we recently published in Nature Protocols. It was a very intense and exciting experience and I poured my soul into it. The whole idea behind it was to help scientists in the chromatin organization field analyze their data from start to finish. An important thing to keep in mind when starting the analysis is that the raw data characteristics can vary a lot due to various biological and technical reasons and one needs to know how and when to account for these characteristics. So, together with other members of Mikhail Spivakov's lab, we wrote a very detailed protocol that explained how to analyze the data, from the pre-processing step to the comparative analysis. It is a very user-friendly guide with many helpful tips, tricks, and scripts. Even an inexperienced user will be able to follow it. I know many scientists who are already successfully using this protocol, so I am extremely happy that we created it!”

Could you give us a glimpse of yourself beyond the science?

One of my hobbies is horse-riding. I discovered the sport a year ago when I joined the Cambridge University Riding Club. I am hugely enjoying it and really hope I will be able to continue riding in Belgium. I also love reading. I am currently reading Simone de Beauvoir’s book Le Deuxième Sexe. In this book, she thoroughly explores the position of women in society. I think she is an amazing writer and philosopher, and I am really learning a lot.”

To finish, do you have tips for new PhD students?

“Yes definitely. First, never think it is too late to learn. If you want to learn something, do it. It is not too late to learn something whether you are a PhD student, a postdoc, or a PI. A second tip would be related to conferences and networking. Never put yourself in a corner. I think when I was a PhD student, I did not appreciate how important it is to force yourself into networking. A conference is not just to show what you are doing, collect some feedback and get back to your bench. It is also about meeting new people, learning about their research, and expanding your knowledge beyond your everyday science. So don’t be scared, go talk to people and ask questions, it will work out just fine!”

Valeriya Malysheva

Valeriya Malysheva

Principal Investigator, Computational Neurobiology Lab - VIB CMN

Baukje Bijnens

Baukje Bijnens

PhD student, Renzo Mancuso lab - VIB CMN


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