Alba Diz-Muñoz is a group leader at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. The Diz-Muñoz group studies the crosstalk between mechanical properties and signalling processes that drive morphogenetic processes and fate specification in immune cells, embryonic stem cells and zebrafish embryos.
What did you train in?
I did a PhD between developmental biology and biophysics and a postdoc between biophysics and bioengineering.
What are you working on now?
The lab now is a mix of it all, we try to understand the crosstalk between mechanical properties and signalling processes that drive morphogenesis and fate specification in immune cells, embryonic stem cells and zebrafish embryos.
What did you find most difficult when you started working in an area out of your comfort zone?
Understanding the jargon and communicating efficiently. Even though we were all speaking English sometimes I felt like conversations took place in a language I did not know.
Also, initially it was hard for me to identify the important questions in the field
And what did you find most helpful to familiarize yourself with new concepts and jargon?
Find a patient collaborator that is open to explaining the concepts at a level you can follow but is also ready to elaborate further once you can stand on your feet in the field.
Tell us about your experience the first time you went to a conference outside the field you trained in.
In the beginning I could only follow the introductory slides of every talk and then I would totally get lost on the actual research and its details. It was hard because I was not used to that. Only after years I was able to be critical with the presented work.
What are the main challenges and the main advantages of working in an interdisciplinary team?
The biggest challenge for me is to make sure everybody is on the same page and we are all able to understand the concepts each team member uses. The main advantage would be to have very different ways of thinking approach the same problem, often an interdisciplinary group will come up with a much more original solution!
What would be your advice to a PI leading an interdisciplinary group?
Pick the best individuals from each file and create an environment where people are not afraid to say “I don’t understand this” so that communication is as efficient as possible.
Do you find it particularly difficult to obtain funding? Or to get your research published?
So far this has not been a problem but give me some more years and I will have more datapoints.