1. What is the leading research theme in your group?
"Turning experimental data into biology through data integration and combination with existing knowledge. There are two types of data: experimental data and existing knowledge. In essence, our work deals with this line of questioning: What are we measuring? How do we deal with the resulting data? Can we understand this data in the context of what we already know? And what exactly do we know already?
The biological context of our work primarily relates to nutrigenomics, cardiovascular disease and network approaches in cancer. "
2. With what type of groups or organisations do you collaborate most and why?
"Our broad scope means that we collaborate with all kinds of research groups: wet-labs working on a biological problem, bioinformatics groups like we are and knowledge-integration groups working on methods to deal with and employ existing knowledge."
3. From your research perspective, what are the main challenges in bioinformatics right now?
"I see two. The first is the need to understand more about the effects of genetic variation and to integrate variation into systems biology approaches. The second is that the semantic web needs to prove itself. The semantic web is very promising, but the time has come to make it work on real problems. That won't be easy, because it requires a high level of detail in knowledge and we need to make a lot of implicit knowledge explicit. A major hurdle here is the difficult communication between the people who build the semantic web and the biologists who need to provide the knowledge."
4. What is the most important task of a group leader?
"Tackling the above mentioned communication problems, both within the group and with external parties. I mostly act as an interpreter."
5. How would you describe the atmosphere in your group?
"Open. In discussions, but also in terms of open source, open data, collaborations with others. Less positive is that, due to some vacancies, we are feeling the growing pressure to do more with less people and that affects the atmosphere every now and then."
Text by Esther Thole.