March 2020: Foivos Tsokanos

Foivos' scientific work in one sentence

I employ genetic models to investigate the implication of specific molecular pathways in the progression of metabolic disorders.

Short CV

Highest Level of education: PhD, 2015, Ruperto-Carola University of Heidelberg, Germany
Actual Position: Post-Doc
Division Diabetic Complications

What is - in your opinion - your best publication?

Tsokanos FF, Albert MA, Demetriades C., Spirohn K., Boutros M., Teleman AA (2016). eIF4A inactivates TORC1 in response to amino acid starvation. The EMBO journal (May 2016)

5 questions about research - past, present, future

1. What are your primary tasks and responsibilities in your actual position?
I maintain cohorts of animal models, which are used to explore the intricate mechanisms responsible for diabetic complications. To that end, I am coordinating with my colleagues (both scientists and technicians) to perform and analyse various studies in vivo. Team work is crucial for this kind of scientific projects, so in parallel, I assist other scientists with their own studies.
Furthermore, I employ in vitro molecular and biochemical methods to validate the results obtained from the in vivo studies.
Lastly, I am responsible for our TSE Phenomaster system, a complex device which allows us to track various metabolic and physiological parameters of animals, in real time. I help scientists plan and set up their experiments, as well as provide support for the analysis of the acquired data.

2. What is it that gives you pleasure and/or satisfaction the most?
I enjoy the iterative thinking process which takes place during the design and preparation of an experiment: from researching the literature and coming up with a hypothesis, to meticulously planning the various steps before the execution. In fact, a properly executed experiment allows me to trust the results which motivates me to move forward, whether the initial hypothesis is proven right or wrong.
Furthermore, the most fulfilling part of my job is mentoring and teaching students, who will eventually become the new generation of scientists.

3. Which research question(s) affects you at the moment? What is its social significance?
I am deeply interested in understanding the impact of the immune system in the development of metabolic disorders. Just as in cancer, there is a point where our immune cells, whose role is to protect our bodies against external attacks, turn against us and contribute to the progression of the disease. In fact, there is an increasing amount of evidence which suggest that environmental factors can tip the scale towards this situation. I am hoping, that through our research, we will generate knowledge that will help the public protect themselves from risk factors and decrease disease occurrence significantly.

4. Which publication influenced you the most?
Hallmarks of cancer: the next generation, by D.Hanahan & R Weinberg, Cell 2014

5. What do you like most about the IDC?
I learned a great deal about various metabolic disorders and I was able to pick up skills that will help me contribute towards the development of new therapeutic strategies. I am also very happy to work in an international environment and collaborate with amazing colleagues. We all come from interdisciplinary backgrounds, so every day there is an opportunity to learn something new, both scientifically and culturally

2 questions beyond research

1. Which book and/or movie has lately affected you the most?
The science fiction book “The Three Body Problem” from Liu Cixin caught my attention recently. It filled me up with wonder and made me realize about the vastness of the universe. I would strongly recommend it to anyone intrigued by space exploration and the mysteries of the unknown.

2. What are your hobbies?
I am an amateur musician and I really enjoy playing the drums or the guitar. I spend most of my free time exploring new music styles, but also playing with other like-minded musicians.  I often get absorbed in reading a good book, and I am always up for watching a movie at the cinema.