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Sofia Moco

PI at the Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences department of the VU.
Birthplace:  Portugal

“I was always curious about how things work, and somehow this has been a constant quest in my life”.

What is your area of expertise & why did you get into this area of research?

I work on cellular metabolism. I would not consider myself an expert, as I am always learning more and more about it. I studied Chemical Engineering and I was always fascinated about molecules: how these tiny structures orient themselves in space, how they interact with each other, and how can we measure them. So, after learning a bit of spectroscopy during my PhD in Biochemistry, I started to get very intrigued on why certain molecules appear in certain tissues and conditions, and why not in others – what are these molecules doing? And this is how I started to get interested in metabolism and metabolic pathways: how can it be that all kinds of carbon-rich molecules – some of which can be quite complex – are (bio)synthesised from a simple molecule of glucose (of course, with a few other helpers)? 😊

How does your work contribute to addressing broader societal or global challenges?

I think our research can contribute to many societal challenges, such as in promoting health: by providing the foundational understanding of metabolic phenomena of rising metabolic conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and even ageing. It is also fundamental to address inter-individual variability in drug discovery or nutritional interventions. Here, there is much to explore and the contribution of the (gut) microbiome in human metabolism is vital. And even in the development of novel foods, including alternative plant protein sources, metabolism understanding is central.

What inspired you to pursue a career in science, and how has that motivation evolved over time?

I was always curious about how things work, and somehow this has been a constant quest in my life. It gives me great pleasure to pursue the understanding of biochemical phenomena. Over time it became important to me to frame this scientific curiosity within the context of health improvement in the society and for the society, even if it may be a long path towards it. And since I joined the VU, I realised that making young people excited about metabolism is now also one of my recent motivations.

What role do collaboration and interdisciplinary approaches play in your work?

I have seen great scientific research arising from interdisciplinary work. Scientific discussion between colleagues of different backgrounds can be quite enlightening and powerful. Nowadays the capacity to establish collaborations and join forces is absolutely essential to tackle the most pressing scientific topics.

Tell us something we don’t know about you? Hobbies, interests…

I am a ‘movie buff’, so in my free time I like to go to the cinema and watch the latest arthouse films.

About Meet the Scientist

Our Meet the Scientist series asks our amazing AIMMS talent to step away from their experiments and tell us more about themselves. From impact they want to make to their favorite hobbies, this is our chance to learn more about these inspiring minds.