Victor Greiff

Dr. Victor Greiff, Group Leader, Institute of Clinical Medicine (University of Oslo), Norway
https://greifflab.org/

Tell us about your research

My research focuses on studying the specificity of adaptive immunity using computational (70%) and experimental (30%) methods. In other words, we are trying to find out how a limited number of antibodies and T cells can recognize so many pathogens. The resolution of this challenge is of incredible importance for rule-based therapeutics and diagnostics design.

What were your challenges of being a NewPI and how you overcame them?

I think one of the main challenges is to hire PhD students/PostDocs. Starting a lab with the wrong people can really slow down the starting up process. I still don’t know how to predict who is good and who is not. I learned that trialing students in their Master’s studies (in Europe almost everyone needs a Master’s in order to enter a PhD program) is a good way of finding out if a student is compatible with my lab. The other big challenge is trust and patience. As a postdoc, one is used to do things quickly and efficiently. But when starting a lab, one is no longer the main data producer in the lab and that takes time to adjust to. I still need to remind myself to have more patience.

How have you been coping with the pandemic in terms of mentoring and research?

We are predominantly computational, and we are in Norway. So, things were not that bad for us. Group meetings are still via zoom though. I would like to have more face-to-face meetings.  As of this year, all 1:1 meetings are in person again because I think zoom decreases creativity to some degree. Given that there was minimal traveling, we were actually quite productive research-wise. The downside of this is that a number of PhD students have never been to a conference (or only very few). But this will change this year.

As a NewPI, what’s your superpower?

Discipline and perseverance.

In this academic rollercoaster ride, words of motivation for others?

I always tell my students that there are many things that are out of our control. But the one thing one can control (to a very large degree) is how hard one works. And for people that work, opportunities will emerge (see also 4.). At the beginning, one worries about having too little output, but over time, it will be increasingly difficult to keep up with all projects (and all other stuff: conferences, administration, grant writing, …). Not sure if this is motivating, though :D.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to your past self, on the day 1 of this job?

Don’t worry so much. Just work and things will be fine.

Bonus Question

What’s the coolest factoid about immunology that I never knew I needed to hear/know?

Each antibody can recognize and bind many different antigens. That’s why we don’t need as many antibodies as there are pathogens. Very clever, evolution! 

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