Basic School No 185 in Yerevan, Armenia -> BSc+MSc in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Yerevan State Medical University -> MPhil in Computational Biology from University of Cambridge (Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics) -> PhD in Theoretical and Biological Chemistry from University of Cambridge (Department of Chemistry).
BSc, MPhil, PhD
2003-2005 – Contractor (Laboratory of Porphyrines, Yerevan State Medical University, Armenia) ->
2005-2008 – Research assistant (Molecule Structure Research Centre, Natl. Acad. Sci., Armenia) ->
2007 – Research visitor (NIH – National Institutes of Health, Bethesda MD, USA) ->
2012-2017 – Research fellow (University of Cambridge, Department of Chemistry and Darwin College, UK)
Group Leader (Integrative Computational Biology and Machine Learning).
MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, Radcliffe Department of Medicine, University of Oxford.
Favourite thing to do in my job: Writing a computer code while imagining (and getting excited about) all the complex molecular and biological processes the code would capture. Interacting with my amazing team.
About Me: A curious mind tinkering about how all this complexity of life emerged from simpler rules and processes. I like to code, read and de-code the books that use mostly 4 letters in their text - A, T, G and C. You have 23 volumes of such books stored in your cells!
My Work: I am teaching computers the skills those need to read and understand the information stored in our DNA, and to arrive to important discoveries all by themselves.
I give computers enough intelligence to recognize complex patterns within our DNA blueprint and the molecular machinery of life, linking those with health and diseases.
What I'd do with the prize money: Many know about DNA double helix structure (right? if not, ask me). Have you heard about DNA quadruplex (4 strands), DNA triplex (3 strands), iMotif (not a phone) or DNA minidumbbell (not too useful in a gym) structures? Worry no more if I get the prize money (click "Read more" to find out why).
DNA forms the common and well-recognized double-helical structure. This is the so called B-DNA conformation of it. However, our DNA also forms other types of structures, equally amazing and beautiful. Examples are Z-DNA, DNA quadruplex, DNA triplex, iMotif or DNA minidumbbell structures. I will invest the prize money in 3D printing large models of such structures, to prepare a visual and interactive lecture about the role of those structures that I hope to deliver in multiple schools and public outreach events. Consequently, the lecture will also be recorded and be uploaded on YouTube for a wider availability across the country and the world.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Human computer symbiont.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
All the scientist and inventor characters in the adventure novels by Jules Verne.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Chemistry, physics and geography. Soon the former two subjects helped me to travel and experience geography first hand.
What did you want to be after you left school?
For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to become a scientist. The specific interests quickly shifted from oceanography to computational chemistry and biology.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Once my class was evacuated after my experiment in a back laboratory went amok spilling butyric acid that smells like rancid butter. We could not return to the same classroom for a few months, because of the persistent bad smell.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Astrophysics; very similar to my job, but with star and planetary data to focus on.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Celtic Women (band), Andrea Bocelli (singer).
What's your favourite food?
Roast chicken; I am not complete without one in a week.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Taking my family to the UK board games expo last year.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Having lots of time; reducing my sugar intake (cannot live without); piloting an airplane, spaceship, or a time machine (any would do).
Tell us a joke.
What is a dinosaur's least favorite reindeer? Comet!