Jelle Matthijnssens

Jelle Matthijnssens

Position: Associate professor at the Rega Institute at the University of Leuven in Belgium

Research focus: Viral metagenomics applied to a wide range of systems, ranging from the healthy and diseased human gut over insect viromes (mosquitoes and honeybees) to the detection of novel plant viruses.

What do you love about viruses?
They keep surprising us over and over again, and the majority of viruses out there have not yet even been discovered. And for the viruses which have been ”discovered” a very large fraction of proteins they encode have no known function to date. The amount of things to be learned here is endless.

On what topic could you give a 30-minute presentation without any preparation?
Rotavirus genetic diversity

What is your favourite way to spend a day off?
Sleeping a bit longer, brunching, doing some sports (preferentially with my 3 boys), playing some board games, and enjoying a nice summer evening with friends and a ”kriek” (Cherry-beer).

What are you currently learning?
For the majority of my research career, I have been researching eukaryotic viruses. However, more recently I also have become fascinated by the world of bacteriophages. Outside my day job as a researcher, I spend a considerable amount of time learning about cryptocurrencies/blockchains and their (future) applications.

If you could create a new invention, what would it be?
Would it not be awesome to have a microscope with the resolution of an electron microscope able to visualize living systems on a microscopic level in real-time?

What is the coolest thing about your research?
The coolest thing about my research is that I have the freedom to investigate anything I find interesting. For example in my ”virome research” we have many small side projects investigating viromes of seaweed, amoeba, caves, etc. These always give fun results!

If you had the option to advise a younger version of yourself, what would that be?
I would have spent more time learning various (bio-)informatics skills. I do encourage my PhD students to gain as much experience as possible. The result is that they know much more bioinformatics than I do.