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Welcome to Flow Stars, candid conversations between Dr.
Peter O'Toole and the big hitters of Flow cytometry.
Brought to you by Beckman Coulter at Bite-size bio.
Welcome to this episode of Flow Stars.
And today I'm joined by Alexis Gonzalez from University of Melbourne,
and we discuss how his academic progression worked in Cuba. In
C you finish university and you go straightforward to work. You don't,
you don't go through the PhD postdoc. Eventually you get a job somewhere.
Typically, the university kind of match the number of, um, uh,
applications and the number of position per year to expected need in,
in five years time.
How much fun he had working with Iran and only Andy Riddel.
I spent two weeks with Andy, and it was mind blowing. Like I slowly, I mean,
it was like, uh, so much information and he knew so much and it was so,
so much fun actually working with him and learning from him that
I seriously consider taking the job when the job became available.
And Andy was interested in me to, in appliance. So.
And how is Kitchen resembles a prep room?
I have, I don't know, 115 different spices.
I have 130 cookbooks.
I have so many kitchen gadgets. My kitchen is like a lab
All in this episode of Flow Stars.
Hi, I'm Peter Oto from the University of York.
Welcome to this episode of Flow Stars.
And today I'm joined by Alexis Gonzalez from the University of Melbourne.
Alexis, how are you today?
I'm good. How are you?
I'm good, thank you.
I think the last time we met in person was probably just before Covid.
Uh, yeah. China.
Yeah. Yeah. Remember there?
So I, we were both doing some consultancy for Beckman Kto looking at, uh,
their concept of the SRT as it was then. I,
I, I, I don't think I asked you. I, I think it was all,
I don't think we discussed that. How did you find China?
Oh, I really like it. Um, it was my first time there, there, um,
have some time to actually see the sites and go through the markets and eat in
some nce. It was interesting.
Did you take any more time over there? I was kind of in and out,
No, yeah, the same. I just went there and came back, but I mean,
there was always some time to explore Yeah. The old town and all that. Yeah.
Yeah. Not much to our, I guess we gotta do the streets and the market,
didn't we on that one day? 'cause it was a pretty intense from morning,
from early morning meetings. Well, eight o'clock start meeting through to what,
10 in the evening? Still formal. Yeah. Questions.
Yeah, they make sure they make the time worth.
Okay. Have you seen the SRT yet? Final product?
I have an SRT.
You have one? Yeah. It's cool.
They actually did some of the things that we asked and suggested, didn't they?
I'm really impressed. Really.
Yeah, no, likewise. I think, I think they, do you know what was really good?
They got us in at an early, early stage. Yeah.
It actually meant that the suggestions from the end users could actually be
implemented. And I'm not sure that's always the case. Quite often a beta test,
it's too late. It's the next iteration that gets there.
Yeah. I mean, uh, I'm impressed with the instrument. I just think that, uh,
it came to a little too late. Um,
I think at the moment we are getting a lot of people doing our auto panels,
so the configuration is quite limiting, but most people,
most people are happy with using 15 colors, so that's okay. But yeah,
it's not an instrument that, um,
I would think it's matching the times. But yeah, again,
sorting is, uh, typically less demand in analysis. So people are happy to,
to just go with small panels. But yeah, it's a very impressive instrument.
I was surprised that they managed to pull off everything that they were intended
to do, and if it is a first generation instrument,
but it's not a first generation in se in in sense, in the, in, in,
in the sense that Kuta has a long experience with some sorting.
So they were not alone. It's not like, yeah,
a completely new coming with a sorter.
They have a really good idea and like set it up.
Yeah. That raises, I don't wanna get too geeky for the, the,
the non-specialist listener, but it's interesting, this, this system,
as you say, it's not a, well, it's not a spectral system for a start. Yeah.
So it's not right up there for, you know, more than 15 colors.
Uh, and I was having this discussion yesterday online with someone.
I still think there is a place, there's still many,
many users that only want two or three, four colors.
Having a 15 means you can choose which combination of it.
I'm not convinced all sorters or all analyzers in the case,
I think of the discussion need to be spectral. You know,
I think they will go there eventually, but there's still a market.
The lower end is the wrong term to use, I think. I think. Yeah.
It's a bit like having two cars on your drive. You've got your, your,
your car that you like to do your long distances, your big family journeys,
and you have the smaller car that you know, you, you'll get to work and back in.
And I, I do think there's still not, and the SRTs that Oh,
No, no, of course. Yeah, of course. The, the, the, the thing is that, I mean,
the instrument does what it's meant to do is a user friendly instrument,
and it is a beautiful, um, instrument intensive embedded, um,
checkpoints and all sort of things that you don't see in any other instrument.
And also, I like the software a lot. I mean, which is the side,
side expert software.
So things that you can do with the software is something that I haven't seen
with any other software. So yeah,
it is user friendly and it's a pleasure to work with it. I mean,
people that have been using the instrument and learning to run it by themselves,
they're happy with it. And I agree that you don't,
we don't need to have sorters that are spectra. Um, that's for sure. And I have,
I mean, I have four auroras at the moment, and users do not complain, uh,
by the lack of detectors they have in the aurora in the area or the side
Because people don't sort 30 colors that that's not something that people do.
Uh, 30 colors are something for exploring,
exploring phenotypes and getting the best out of the sample.
But when it comes to sorting, you shoot,
you choose a phenotype and you focus on it. So yeah, so far so good.
It's just a buying sort requires an, an investment clearly. And at this point,
I'm probably interested in looking at Spectra sorters,
not only because of the number of colors you can get,
but also because of the features that you get on top,
which is something that you can do best with, uh, spectra analysis also sorters.
let's keep applying pressure and let's make sure their next one does that as
Yeah, I'm sure they're probably thinking about it.
I, I hope so. Uh, Alexis, you are in Melbourne.
I met you before. You're in Melbourne. So take, take me through your,
your history of where you started and how you got to Melbourne. So,
so what was your first degree in?
Uh, I did a degree in biochemistry,
so in c when in the University of Haa. So we have, uh,
the faculty of biology and there were three,
three career institute choose from biology. There was, uh,
microbiology and biochemistry,
and I went for biochemistry because I thought it was, uh,
the most interesting one. Um,
so I did five years of that and then started working as a researcher in an
institute in Havana called Center of Molecular Immunology.
And I did probably like 10 years of research, uh,
working in anti-tumor therapies. Um,
I did my master's there, the PhD there. Um,
and yeah, we were working pretty interesting stuff,
and they said was kind of new and they have a very open vision on how
to approach cancer, cancer immunotherapy. Um,
some of the things that I was working on at the time now are commercial products
approved for cancer treatment. And, and I, I've,
I've heard that they have grown substantially since I left with factories in
China, India and all that. They're pretty successful here. Um,
so I did 10 years of that. I was actually like a research, um, scientist.
Like a staff scientist. Yeah. Yeah. In Cuba, we, in Cuba,
you finish university and you go straight for to work. You don't,
you don't go through the PhD postdoc. Eventually you get a job somewhere.
Typically the university kind of matched the number of, um, uh,
applications and the number of positions per year to expected need in,
in five years time. Yeah. So by the time I finished,
I knew what I was going to work,
and I started working in that place right before I finished the university.
So most people would do that. So you have like a internship and you would spend,
a month in the summer working in research lab and working little projects that
would ended up being your bachelor degree kind of thesis. Yeah. Uh,
and if you're successful and, and they like you and you like the place,
you end up working there. So you go straight for university to get a job.
So that was for like 10 years. Then I went to Portugal to do a postdoc.
So why? And it was very,
Why move out? Why, why move to Portugal?
Because I was doing a postdoc in something that was a niche kind of thing.
And Portugal have the knowhow and that thing. So like people do,
they essentially move and go to acquired experience somewhere else.
So I was in Portugal maybe like a year, two years,
three years I think maybe a year initially as a postdoc, a year and a half.
And at the time, Mattias, howdy, I don't know if you remember Mathias, howdy.
Um, he used to be the, the manager of the, uh,
they call it the cell imaging unit.
So he was in charge of microscopy and cytometry,
and he come essentially from sat wall immunologist as well,
used to work in pastoral institute.
Like many people in the banking institute when I was there.
And he talked to me about maybe trying to,
to run that facility. There was a flow sat facility.
The person that was in charge of the facility was leaving,
and they were looking for someone to take on the job. Uh,
so I started with Mathias learning how to operate the morph flow legacy at the
time. And it was quite an experience because yeah,
I used cytometry. I used cytometry as an immunologist,
which is what I was doing mostly. But yeah, it was a different,
completely different experience to run a morph flow legacy.
So, and I started there essentially I learned,
I think in three days or something, Mathias was very impressed about it. Um,
because after I, essentially I went through the training three days,
I started running the instrument and,
and things were running fine and people were happy.
And I probably spent there three years as a manager or
responsible for the pH of thermal operations. We have very few instruments,
really fcan or fax call something else, and the MO flow.
And it was mostly essentially helping people with sorting on that. Yeah.
Alexis, the mo flow legacy,
IIII was one of the right questions is what is your favorite sort that you've
ever worked with? You've used a legacy, surely that's gotta be your favorite.
Of course. It's, I mean, this is a, this is something very funny.
You can say that, uh, sort operators,
you can divide them between those that work with more flows and instruments like
that, or, or, and people that started and only know, uh,
fully enclosed instruments like the area or et cetera. So the,
the mo flow was probably part of the reasons I know things I was optometry is
because I was working with Ollo and the fact that you can get to a line of the
lasers and, and see things and exchange part,
repair things and truly shoot on the fly, that was, it's like a school.
I think I still have one of them in the University of Melbourne and Molo XT P.
And it really pains me to have to get rid of it, uh,
because I think it's the best instrument to learns matric. Um,
if you don't know, if you haven't worked with an instrument like this,
you don't understand things like alignment and errors and measurements and et
cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It is, uh, fantastic.
And it was meant to be like that.
I think mo flows like mold or flow centimeter or something, flow centimeter.
It was supposed to be like a Lego instrument more or less,
like closer to microscopy in terms of how open the systems are and how you can
customize it. Yeah,
I think the other, the other beauty of the mode flow is you could,
it's a performance instrument. It's a high perform,
and you could tweak it to make it perfect for pretty much every sample. Mm-Hmm.
And you can feel it, it's strange, you know, it's not just, as you say,
it's not a black box, it's not an all enclosed system. You can feel that system,
you know how it's performing. It's, it's almost an extension of you. It's,
it's very strange how you get so close to an instrument. It's, uh,
Yeah, it's the same.
Same. Yeah, I miss my legacy. I'm sure many of my users don't because it,
it was, you have to understand your instrument.
Uh, um, yeah, I mean clearly I,
I I would mention like if you are in a high service kind of
environment, it helps a lot to have instruments that are, you know,
more friendly. Um,
not everyone wants to get to the level of knowledge that the MO flow requires.
And people, some users, for instance,
will find it really difficult to use the MO flows, uh,
DDOY instrument. But, um, I think it's a,
it's an issue with optometry, I think in, in general,
is the fact that instruments are becoming smaller and, and compact. And, um,
most instruments will be on the service contracts.
You don't have access to the instrument or the parts.
You don't know what's you buying. Sometimes you don't know what, you know,
where the problems come from. And yeah, the Molo was a school,
it's essentially a school. Uh,
I run the Molo for maybe 13 years more.
Um, and I learned so much. Like you, you go initially from the,
you know, monkey see, monkey do kind of,
you learn the basics and you kind of follow procedure. Like I was in Portugal,
essentially. I learned the instrument in three days,
but I didn't know what was happening. I,
I was making sure that everything was as, uh, you know,
following the guidelines and trying as best as possible. But, um,
then when I went to ambo in Germany, the, with Andy, it was a completely,
it's like university. I mean, it's like five, 10 years. It's like two,
two university degrees, just working the workflow. And we,
we actually didn't have any service contract.
The beauty of the mouth that you can buy all the components and you can replace
them and you can, uh, fix the instrument.
So we spent 10 years without a service contract.
We rarely have to go by Manta to help or fix anything.
And the instrument looks a little bit like a microscopy lab kind of instrument.
We have like seven lasers, two mo flow, side by side,
kind of crazy. And yeah, doing anything. And, and yeah, as you said,
it's a fi it's an instrument that allows you to fine tune. So it's,
the idea that I have with the MO is that you build the instrument for the
so you don't have to use the instrument as you have it and try to see whether
the application will be successful. You actually can build it for people.
It's like a tailor made kind of suit.
And users were users that were accessing the moldflow were really happy with it.
some people actually will tell me that the moldflow was more sensitive that are
for Tesla. And we have a fantastic for Tesla with five lasers, you know,
that we'll say completely new instrument. And the workflow was still better.
And resolving DI signals surprisingly, that the exa,
which is something that people would not typically assume will be the case.
But yeah, it is an instrument full of surprises. Yeah.
So taking you back, you're in, you're in Portugal. How,
how many years were you in Portugal before you went to EMBL in Germany?
I think three years. Three years? Yeah. Three
And then why switch to joining the absolute matters of hater Andy Rid?
Uh, when I, when I was working, as I mentioned,
I learned the mo but I didn't know,
I didn't have a proper education in like a hardcore kind of education.
It was more like a user running an instrument, um, and trying to learn on the,
on the, on the pro in the process. But, uh, Mathias Howie,
which was my manager in Portugal, he left, uh,
at some point Portugal and went to Germany. So he went to work with, uh,
in BLE where Andy was.
And he organized for me to spend maybe two weeks of a kind of advance,
um, training with Andy. And I went there, I was still working in Portugal.
I went there like for two weeks. And, uh, we, I spent two weeks with Andy,
and he was mind blowing. Like I slowly, I mean, it was like, uh,
so much information and he knew so much, and it was so,
so much fun actually working with him and learning from him that I
seriously consider taking the job. When the job came, became available.
And Andy was interested in me to, uh, in applying.
So I applied for the job initially,
and I missed the first round of interviews. It was kind of funny, like,
he called me on the day of the interview and saying, Hey, Alexis, are you,
are you aware that we have an interview today for you? What are you?
And I said, oh, man, I didn't get the message, so I missed the email.
I don't know why. And so he told me, well, look, next time,
next time, if I have another position, I will let you know,
because I really want them to know you and I want you to join the facility.
But what happened is that the person that was the favorite for the job,
for whatever reason, the, the whole, the application and the selection,
at some point,
the person they were looking as the best possible candidate canceled last
minute. Um, and then,
and essentially instead of going to the second in line and they just call me and
say, Hey, could you, could you head over here? We can do an interview for you.
If you're happy, uh, you get the job. Um, I want you,
I want them to meet you first. So that's the way I was essentially, I,
I went to Germany, did the interview with, um,
the head of the core facilities at the time, uh,
Christian Bolan and all the people that were core managers as well.
And yeah, it was straight, straight on. Like, I got the job then after that.
So that's why I moved to Germany.
And the reason why I moved to Germany to work with Andy is because Andy is a
And I knew that I was going to get all the education that I wanted.
Um, and it was exactly like that. So there was no, um,
nothing different. The fact that I said already, I knew him out of this, uh,
two weeks internship, uh, yeah.
Made me feel confident about it. That's, that's the reason.
Yeah. I, I, I was gonna say, I think I know my flow cytometry fairly well.
I think I can still learn from Andy. Yeah. I, I, I think he's a,
I think he's a flow genius, not, not just a flow star, but a flow genius.
It's, it is, it is, it is. He,
He's more than passionate. He's as passionate about,
he's probably the most passionate flow cytometry ist to maybe to to flow.
Yeah. For and sorting, especially I I think he's, so you, there's,
there are Stella stars out there, even, you know,
I'm not gonna name names because I'm gonna miss someone out,
but Andy's passionate about it. He's just, I,
I just on a slightly different level.
Yeah. Andy is, uh, how can I say this?
Andy is a guy that think of the out of the box constantly. So I spent,
imagine 10 years there. I think I,
Andy stayed there until 2012.
So we probably were there together for maybe six years or so.
And, and every day was fun. I mean, Andy had this idea, and also he,
he brought a lot of things. I mean,
part of the things that I think in cytometry, and what a part of my, you know,
like my, uh, how do you call this? Uh,
my ideas of cytometry come from Andy. Uh, I remember the first time,
one of the first chats that we have, he was telling me, well,
what I was expecting of a cytometry, what was my goal? What, what was my,
you know, the things that I wanted to do?
And coming from the immunology background, I, I told Andy that I wanted to,
to try a big panel and do a big, big panel,
like 10 colors. I said, and, and he told me,
why not to actually think that maybe another challenge is to find the DMA
signal. Um, maybe the challenge is not to get that many colors,
but to find and be able to resolve the DMA signal possible. And essentially,
we spend all the time in BOL working on that,
because people in BOL were molecular biologists.
So it's not a typical immunology kind of environment in which people want more
markers and they want to do this immunophenotyping. They,
they were more interested in, I don't know, uh,
fluorescent protein tag gene Yeah. That were lowly expressed.
Uh, they wanted to sort the cell for doing, I don't know,
advanced microscope and do the whole map of, um, proteins and, uh,
factors acting in, in mitosis. It was,
there were projects like this.
So essentially they will tag every single gene that they could think of that
were involved in the machinery, and they,
they will come with the cells that were extremely, um, um,
essentially the efficiencies were really low at the time. And the, the, the,
the, the intensity were really, really low.
So that's the reason why enable the focus was to have resolution, resolution,
resolution, trying to make sure that we get the best out of things.
And sometimes the sample didn't have even staining,
like if you're working with matching like marine animal organisms that don't
have any antibiotic for it, you have to go for structural markers and all,
all sort of things and work together with microscope to identify populations.
Yeah, it was really a massive school. And yeah, sensitivity was the, the main,
um, concern for us when I was there. So, yeah. Uh,
I actually came back to Immunophenotyping backing when I came to Melbourne.
Really, uh, for the time that I was in bol, we would,
we rarely would do more than, I don't know, four colors, five colors,
but every color was really a challenge.
And then So you spent 10 years, did you say EMBL?
Which is because they, they have a limited amount of time, don't they,
that you can actually work at TMBL?
Yeah, that's the, that's the idea there. Yeah.
So you're up to your limit. So why Melbourne?
Oh, Melbourne. When I finished in ble,
or before I finished in Embol,
I knew there was a position opening in Melbourne University,
and I think Rui was the one that told me about it. And
yeah, when I finished, I essentially had to, before I finished,
I started looking for places to go. There was one option in Amsterdam, uh,
and there was the option in Melbourne and Melbourne seems like the most
challenging one. And, uh, it was kind of a big jump from what I was doing,
working by myself or with, uh, maybe one person does it,
and with limited instruments to go to manage a massive platform with 30
instruments and seven nodes and staff and 350 users. And yeah,
so it was a big, massive jump, and I thought I liked the challenge.
So that was one of the reasons why I'm Melbourne.
Second reason is that I knew Melbourne already.
I have been here maybe three times before moving
and taking the job at the University of Melbourne. My partner is Australian,
so yeah, I knew Melbourne already, and I was in love with the city,
so I couldn't think of any other place to actually leave the Melbourne.
And so it was kind of a, I don't know,
it was a little bit of alignment of things that led to me to work in Embo in,
in Melbourne. Uh, and I think it was a good decision, really. Um,
I feel like years had a little bit like, um, I don't know, primary school,
as difficult as they were, and as challenges as they were, yeah,
they were really, uh,
basic compared to what you face when you work in the university environment.
So, so that's interesting because one of the questions, uh,
when you're talking about EMBL, you know, I, I think E em, EMBL,
actually the European Letter of Biological Laboratories, which is kind of a,
a European, uh, not, although it's in Germany,
it's kind of its own European site. So it's kind of,
it's a bit odd the way it sits within it. The users there are very,
very, uh, driven.
'cause they only have short careers there before they have to leave.
And I can imagine they're really demanding. But where has, from the academic,
uh, expectations from the users,
where's been the most demanding locations up in Portugal? Uh,
when you were there, was it it EMBL or is it where you are now in Melbourne?
Hmm. D demanding and challenging users? Ones,
the expectations are such that,
Uh, uh, I think, look, it's a different, each place,
place has different flavor. Um,
I think between Germany and Melbourne are the most demanding places. And,
and the reason for that is it's a dual reason in me,
in bu the, you are working with molecular biologists and these people,
typically they use optometry, but cytometry is not the main, um, you know,
it's not the bread or butter. Yeah, they,
they go to cytometry for very practical reasons,
and they don't probably get to know the technology to the fullest. So in ble,
we and Andy and myself have a,
a big job to make sure that we translate their witches into
experimental design and, and proper experiments and, and run.
So it was amazing because you get the most amazing questions from
people that are not anything about optometry. So they,
they come with the idea of what they want,
but they are not biased by whatever they think the technology is. Yeah.
So they will come with the biggest challenges.
And it was all the time like this. I mean, I remember in the time that was in,
I think that the challenge, I mean, the, the task for was to translate,
as I said,
whatever they wanted to do with actual experiments that were successful.
And we would rarely say no to people. Actually, part of the fun is that,
uh, if we needed to,
we'll buy components and modify the instruments and get bigger lasers and try to
essentially try to accommodate what they wanted, uh, to the fullest.
And typically we were able to do so in rare occasions, we'll say, no, look,
this is beyond what we can do. The instruments are not able to cope with that.
But that was a challenge. So the challenge of working with, um, uh,
people that are self-driven, they are fantastic scientists. I mean,
BLE is a little bit like an incubator in Europe. So they,
the idea is that many European countries put money to the, to the,
the funding of that place.
And it's actually more like an European little island in Germany. Um,
but yeah, people come from everywhere. You meet people from all over the place,
and people that go there typically are extremely, um, talented.
Uh, they have a very strict selection process of front sea eyes to,
to students that were all ambitious. Um, but yeah,
you have the idea that you are essentially working with someone that is not
familiar with technologists.
You need to coach them all the way from the idea to the execution. Uh,
I think Melbourne is also challenging because we,
I've also worked with people that are extremely talented. Um, they are,
a lot of them are immunologists, but we also have people working in,
I don't know,
neurosciences and developmental biology and microbiology and marine biology.
So they, what I used to get in bol,
and now I get it also the University of Melbourne,
because the platform is very broad and people are not only immunologists that
typically know what they're doing, but we get all sort of people. Uh, so yeah,
I, I think I have more, more,
more requests and things that I would like to do than time that I have to invest
on them. But
Yeah. So thinking along those lines, what, uh,
what's been your biggest challenge to date in your career?
Uh, what do you mean challenge?
What you found, uh, the biggest task,
most difficult task you've had to enable or deliver?
Uh, I mean, I, after working like, I don't know, f 15 years,
you get a couple of them.
I think one of the things that I would not say intense challenge and intense
sense of, um, uh, experience, like amazing experiences.
I remember in bu for instance, setting up the mo flow for chromosome sorting,
and that being absolutely mind blowing beautiful. Like, uh,
the idea that you set up the instrument for it,
but when you run the samples initially,
you still have to fine tune and tweak the whole thing before you see the
chromosomes. That was like, I don't know, it's like a awakening kind of thing.
Okay. So been, I'll go another way. Then.
What has been the most difficult time? So, so it's not just challenging,
but you know, everyone's career can look serene from above the water.
Yeah. But below it, there can be some real difficulties at some point. Uh,
so what, what have you found the hardest, most difficult time in your career?
Uh, I don't tend to feel that,
that strongly about things in terms of letting them, letting them,
letting me affect me in a way.
But I think the most difficult time probably was the time in Portugal,
because it was the beginning and I wasn't fully sure, uh,
whether I will continue doing cytometry or doing something else.
So it was a moment of transition. I mean, transitions are difficult. Uh,
once you are in the field and you know what to expect, you cannot ready for it.
But I was coming from the research background into more like a technology kind
of, uh, job, uh,
not having full understanding of the technology in depth when I started.
Yeah, it was a difficult time.
Clearly you stress about things that you don't fully understand,
but I think that was, I would say that was the most difficult time. Um,
so in a way, going to am both was also like initial, like really started my,
my career in cytometry. My commitment to cytometry started when I met Andy, uh,
a little bit. I think cytometry still works, like, uh, you know,
like medieval kind of, uh, uh,
jobs in which you learn from the craft, from, you know, a kind of, uh,
um, um, a person. There is not like a degree in cytometry.
You learn a little bit depending on where you are and what you have been exposed
to and who you work with.
Alexis, you mentioned the difficulty of transitioning into flow cytometry as a
technology. What about moving countries? I, I,
not everyone goes from country to country to country to country. How, and,
you know, culturally you've gone from Cuba to Portugal, maybe, you know,
transition, I'd say Portugal to Germany's a pretty big transition. Yeah.
And then Germany to is, is very different again.
So how did you find all those transitions on a personal level? Just, you know,
the community, the people you're around,
settling into different countries. How have you found that
Fascinating? It is not a challenge for me. Um, I think some friends,
some of my close friends think that I'm fearless. I don't think in terms of,
um, how do you call this? I'm happy to move. Yeah.
I have been moving for a while now. I have been in three countries,
and I live in Kuba for 30 years. I think every time you move to a country,
you have a kind of a fresh start in terms of things,
and you're exposed to new things and you learn new cultures and things about,
you know, the food. For instance.
I think one of the reasons that I love Melbourne so much is, uh, how rich it is.
I terms of food and, and options. It's a very multicultural city.
It's a massive city as well. But yeah, I don't,
I don't see it as a challenge really. Every, every place have an opportunity to,
to grow and to learn things. And I think the more you do it,
the more you realize how biased your initial perception of things are,
how much you're affected by what your country think the world should be.
And then when you move to another place, you learn, oh, okay,
this is actually different here. And, um,
you learn things from each place that you, you are.
So I have been essentially taking things from every country, uh,
which is funny because I don't forget them.
I essentially keep them on board. I still feel very closely attached to Porteo.
Um, it was my first country after cure,
and I have an amazing time there. I mean,
I mentioned it was difficult in terms of switching from research cytometry,
but in terms of live experiences and people that I met,
Portu is at the top of the rank of, you know, it was amazing. So I,
I live with Brazilians. I have friends from Angola.
I have a lot of Portuguese friends. The,
the lab was very lively and multicultural thing.
We'll have dinners and go to pops and, uh, the city itself,
Lisbon is a beautiful city. Uh, I cannot believe how beautiful Lisbon is.
So yeah, I still have things that I, you know,
like I still do Portuguese dishes and,
and I have Portugal cooking devices and things like that because yeah,
you just add it on.
How, how much of that do you think is influenced by age?
Because you'd have gone, sorry, what,
how much do you think is influenced by age?
Because you went to Portugal when you were obviously younger. Well,
probably 20 years younger.
If I'm counting up the amount of time you've been in Melbourne and amount of
time in Germany and the freedom you said, you know, go down a pub, you know,
you mix and socialize, just, you know, when you went to Melbourne,
you've now got a partner. You're more settled on there.
So your ability to go out is less, I presume, you know, does that
Well, what, in the city or?
Well, just with colleagues and, you know, because
Yeah, of course. Yeah. I know, I know, I know, I know. I know age,
age is a big factor. Clearly. I mean, look, if you are 55 or something and 60,
you most likely would not go anywhere. You, you will go to visit. Yeah, clearly.
But no one move at the age, typically, typically,
unless you are a genius and you are a professor and that's what you do, like,
that's what scientists do all that. They are moving career,
they're moving places depending on where they get the funding and where they get
the grants. But yeah, I think at age goes by, it's a little more difficult.
It's true, but I don't feel really old that I have a problem,
that I don't feel my age at all. And, um,
so yeah, I'm not, I'm not afraid of things. I,
I'm constantly trying new things and moving countries is, uh,
is an amazing thing. Like I will not change it. But yeah,
clearly the older you get, the difficult it gets. The more,
the more you're bound to the place that you are. Yeah. The most diff the more,
the more the difficulties in trying to start from scratch somewhere else,
especially if there's a place that is not culturally related to you.
Like a different culture, different language. Yeah.
Do you see yourself moving again?
Uh, I'm not thinking of moving at this point, but yeah,
I would not say no to anything.
Like if life show me something is that you sometimes cannot
predict the fact, the future, you just need to be ready for that. Yeah.
You don't know. I didn't know in Cuba that I wanted to run in cytometry.
I didn't know it was a,
when I was a child that there was a thing called cytometry that was not part of
my plan. So yeah, I didn't know that I need to know things about engineering.
When I was studying biology,
I actually de despite engineering when I was in Cuba, um,
and now suddenly I embrace and I love it. So yeah, life changes all that.
I think the most important thing in life, no matter what you do,
is that you keep growing, uh, in, it can be in your country.
You don't have to move away from your country to grow,
but moving away from your country gives you another perspective of more global
kind of view of things and how relative things are. Yeah.
So that's actually a really good segue because one of my questions always is,
what, what was the first job you ever wanted to do?
You can remember as a child ever wanting to be, so around the age of 10 or so,
you think, oh yeah, I want to be a what do, what was the first job you want?
You thought you
Oh, really stupid. I wanted to be, I don't remember really. Probably,
if I remember correctly, I wanted to be things that were unreasonable.
Like I wanted to be an astronaut and I wanted to be a firefighter,
which is fine. Uh, I have very simple witches.
I didn't grow up. It's kind of funny, like I didn't have a reference.
Imagine if you, if you are growing in a family of professors and doctors,
and that you, you probably kind of have an idea what the profession entails.
You have like preference from your family in a way. So you kind of say, okay,
I want that, or I don't want that at all. In my case, it was, I was open,
I could do whatever I wanted. My family was really humble and my,
with education really up to, I don't know,
sixth grade or ninth grade secondary school,
nothing really massive or nothing at all related to university.
So I didn't actually know what I was going to be.
I think I was more and more into biology as time went by,
but I could have easily done something else,
like mathematics or something that I like a lot when I was in this in school,
yeah, I didn't have an idea professional, actually. I was a little bit like,
it's kind of funny, like, I don't have this, uh,
I understand that people have this, you know, like, how do you call this?
From the very early age, they know they want to be something.
I never actually was sure about what I wanted.
All I wanted was to keep growing and learning. So I,
I liked school and I liked school in many different things. So I used to like,
I don't know, things as different as literature and history,
physics or mathematics or biology.
So I didn't have a kind of a preference really.
Yeah, I'd, I'd, I'd say having this,
having done quite a few flow stars and the microscopist, very few.
And there, there are a few, but very few at the age of 10,
12 actually saw themselves as a scientist even
Mm-Hmm. But, you know, it,
it's something that they fell into going through high school into university.
And even then, you know,
some of the biggest names never saw themselves going towards flow cytometry or
they were there for different reasons and then just found what they were good at
and moved. Yeah. So my next question, obviously,
I you're very happy at what you're doing now, so we'll leave what,
what you'd like to do now. If you could spend the day or week,
what, what job would you like to try out? Try? Yeah, even just a sample.
What sort of, uh, you know, I, yes, I've got my career here,
but I'd love to know what it's like to do this job.
What job would you like to go and try out?
I would love to be a chef.
Yeah. I love it. Um, yeah,
I love cooking a lot. And I will see myself happily in a kitchen,
even if it's, you know, helping a chef, like assistant chef. I love it. I,
I never get tired of it. I never get sick of it.
I can do it no matter how tired I am. It makes me happy, big time.
So yeah, cooking probably is the thing that I like the most.
It's very difficult and stressing based on,
based on the experience of all the chefs and,
and how stressful working in kitchen is. But I love it. I,
I think Kit cooking is a little bit like, I don't know, like laboratory kind of,
uh, environment. You're playing with flavors and doing things.
So it's not that different. I'm not changing completely every year,
but yeah, that's what I like to do.
That's a good answer. Have you ever seen the menu, the film, the menu?
No. Which film is that?
Uh, it, it's, it's fairly, fairly recent, but go and watch the menu. I,
I had the misfortune of watching it going to Cyto.
Yeah, I heard about it.
I was, uh, we, we went out for dinner.
It was, it was, uh, we were very fortunate. It was fun. It was a very nice meal.
You know, it was proper
seven eight course meal and it was like walking into the movie.
And if you've seen the movie, that makes it rather unnerving that I'll say that.
Yeah. Yeah. And we'll talk about it once you've watched it.
I just love the fact that the next day I am sitting in
essentially walking very, very similar environments to the menu. I,
I was looking at those waiters and waitresses with great suspicion.
And then I worried that the waiters and waitresses watched a movie.
And so they were looking at us thinking,
are we looking at them with great suspicion? And then I realized,
I'm now looking at them thinking, are they looking at us? Looking at them with,
Oh, wait a second. Wait a second.
It's a movie that escalating to something really, uh, dark.
Like is there a kind of a restaurant that end up being like a kind of a gore
kind of a situation
In an entertaining way? Yes.
Eh, okay. Yeah. So yeah, no, I am, yeah, I love cooking, but I love cooking.
Uh, the things that I like cooking actually are very,
very broad. I, I'm,
I know when I say that I love cooking, it is not that I want to be a chef,
like a super chef. I'm not.
I love he some blumenthal and things that he does with cooking and all that.
But I love more the, the, the research kind of thing. Uh,
how do you can create flavors and how you learn techniques to produce some sort
of effect or, or make people actually happy of eating.
But my food typically is very simple.
It's mostly soft food is the food that I grew up with.
I love Indian food. I love Japanese food for different reasons. Um,
so yeah, I tend to do a lot of normal stuff. Like, I don't,
I don't embellish my dishes or, or try to do like a, you know,
like a tiny thing. Like, no, but yeah, I love that. I, I love that too.
So what is your signature dish?
Oh, um, I don't have one really,
uh, Peter, I have,
I don't know, 150 different spices.
I have 130 cup hooks.
I have so many kitchen gadgets. My kitchen is like a lab.
I don't have a signature dish. I think I have things that I love to eat,
and surprisingly, um, I think that happens to everyone.
The things that I love to eat the most are the things that I grew up with.
So no matter how many countries I have been and how many things I had tried
when it comes to comfort food,
I was thinking in terms of what I grew up with and the things that I grew up
with, with the typical, you know, Caribbean kind of food, like, you know,
black beans and, and a lot of side ditches and things with vegetables and rice.
I had to have rice all the time. So yeah, I, I will,
I will say that my black beans are pretty good.
That's based on what my partner and people say,
but I don't have a signature dish. I, I tend to do many things.
I tend to do as many as possible, and I keep doing new dishes all the time.
So, so who's the cook at home? Are you the main cook or your partner?
I am the cooker. Yeah. Yeah.
Do they wash up or just load a dishwasher?
Yeah, the typically, typically my partner doesn't like cooking at all.
And I mean, he's very good at doing things like desserts. He loves that,
but he doesn't do any main cooking. He doesn't like cooking,
but he's very good at cooking, actually.
He's just that I take on the kitchen and he trusts me with it.
And essentially he's my, my little Guinea pig.
I do all the things that are funky and he tell me if he likes it or not.
Stay in the menu of the house or no. But, um, yeah, I love cooking. Um,
I think that's interesting. So he does desserts and,
and you do the main courses. There's a big difference isn't though,
I think between desserts and main, main courses and starters,
you can taste as you go through. Yeah. Desserts.
You follow a recipe and you pray.
Yes, yes. And that tells you a lot about him.
He's very much organized and metallic.
So desserts are something that are perfectly in his Alec. When I do desserts,
I'll do the same. I'm very metallic as well, because I mean, you,
you cannot mess up with recipe, you know, ingredients and amounts,
and he's super amazing and fancy, but I'm not much like a sweet kind of guy.
I don't, I like sweet things, but I don't crave them all the time.
So I tend to go more for, I don't know. I,
one of the things that happens since I left Q was the fact that I could now do
whatever I want. So from the, the, the,
the limited kind of options that I have in Cuba,
so only have the whole world to try. And, um,
I like cook. I like the, I like, essentially, I,
I think you kind of get the culture and the people by the food they eat
and the, and the meals they make,
it's like I mentioned like thousands of years of experience.
All of them combine, uh, essentially, uh, taking you into the dish. Um,
and the more alien they are, the more I'm, I'm fascinated by it. I mean, uh,
at the moment in, in, in Melbourne,
I think my biggest crush is anything Japanese,
just because it's the complete opposite of what I grew up eating. The,
the way they cook, the things, the, the techniques they use,
how ti they are tidy when it comes to ke, the cook, the, the dinners.
And it is fascinating. So yeah, I love most savory things. Yeah.
And there are so many options anyway.
Is there anything you do not like to eat?
Oh, that's a good question. Um,
uh hmm. There are things that I don't like to eat,
but not because they might not taste good.
It's mu much like a matter of principle. I would not eat, for instance,
I would not eat endangered speeches and I will eat the brain of a monkey.
Things that we're used to, you know, uh, things, no, there,
there are things that I will never eat because I don't want to, like,
essentially not because I would not like them,
but in terms of things that I don't like eating, I don't have anything really.
I try most things and I don't get to the point that I hate them enough
to say I don't like you. But yeah, I have my preferences,
but I don't have things that I don't like. I cannot think of it.
When I was a young a kid, I used to dislike things like I couldn't eat,
for instance, I don't know, vitro. And,
and that changed very quickly when I went to the uni, uh, to the high school.
I was in a boarding school and we were always hungry
and we were essentially eating anything and many things that I used to dislike
suddenly became fine. Yeah.
Okay. So I I, some quick fire questions for you. Okay.
So are you an early bird or NightOwl?
Both. Both. A little bit of a, yeah. Both.
I think. Yeah, it depends.
PC or Mac?
McDonald's or Burger King?
Oh, okay. Portugal?
Mainly, I would say Cuba, but I don't think I terms of one or the other.
I would say both.
Okay. Portugal or Germany?
Portugal, okay. So, so Portugal or Australia?
Australia or Cuba?
Uh, you sneaky. I will say,
look, I love Cuba. Yeah. It's like, uh, I don't know.
It's like you're comparing, um, love, love, you know, like,
love stories. Cuba was my first love,
and I grew to love it even more since I left.
But I have to give it to Melbourne. It's, I would not say Australia as a whole.
I would say Melbourne. Um, where I live, I'm in love with it. Um,
and it's a fantastic city for anyone to try, really. Um, so yeah,
I would say at the Moines at the moment, Melbourne, right?
I, I try, but I think you've, anyone, you've kept your passports,
so you are fine. You're good. Coffee or tea?
Uh, short or long? Espressos or short?
Well, middle, typically middle range,
but more to the strong side of like maybe middle espresso. Yeah.
Beer or wine?
Wine. Red or wine. Wine at home. Beer outside, you know,
beer in the pubs, wine at home.
Is that because you can't get good? I love both
In the pub, no,
because wine is something that I enjoy in a dinner or it's
something that I enjoy at home. It's something cozy, um,
warm. If I go to the pub, I like beer typically. I mean, in Germany,
for instance, that was my big training in beer.
I love beer since I live in Germany and before that in Portugal,
but Germany was like a masterclass.
And then you go to Belgium and the beer is amazing.
So the beer is as good as a wine. So yeah,
beer in social situations and wine at home or during dinner.
Yeah. Belgian beers. Now you've taken my mind somewhere else. They're awesome.
Chocolate or cheese?
Now I think I knew that because you said of about your not the sweet tooth and
Uh, TV or book.
both used to be a lot of a book nerd and read a lot of books when
I was a younger kid, and yeah, I went through many of them, so yeah.
Books at the time. But then I love tv, especially TV nowadays.
Like we have the quality of the TV that looks almost like cinema. Uh,
I would tend to watch TV a lot.
You have documentaries and all the TV shows of operas, whatever. Um,
it is a good way to relax.
And, uh, do you have any tv, vice trashy tv?
Actually Any TV vices? Any trashy tv? Yes. You secretly
Like, uh oh, that's a good one. Good one. Um,
I don't know if you can, you can see the old reality TV trashy.
I don't think they are all trashy. No, but I,
I tend to like some reality TV that, that is, um, fun. I,
you have this survivor in Australia, which is awesome to watch. Um,
it's kind of amusing. And when they are properly done,
it's surprisingly entertaining. And, um, what else?
Maybe cooking shows I like as well.
That's, I wouldn't say trashy, but yeah. Yeah.
Okay. What's your favorite film?
Well, that's another difficult one, Peter. I love many, many,
many different films, so I can, I don't have a favorite one.
I can tell you several, but not one. Um,
Uh, uh, uh,
there is a film that I like a lot when I was younger, um,
when I was in Cuba called Alker. It's a Russian film.
We used to be exposed to Russian films a lot, as you can imagine. Um, so yeah,
this film is by a guy called Koski. And the film is, uh,
it's kind of a science fiction movie.
It was done at the same time that the Star Wars was done, we're done.
But this was, uh, the Russian take on it. Extremely poetic, very much, um,
all the power in the image. You don't get to see a, you know,
space spacecraft, you don't see, you get to see an alien,
but you can feel the presence in the movie. It's amazing.
And it looks like a, a film dome with very little resources.
I think it was film in Ville.
So you have all the alien ville before the actual nuclear accident. Yeah.
And then, so that was some film that I like a lot.
And another movie that I liked a lot was Fight Club.
One ago again. So I,
I tend to like films that are kind of weird or kind of make me feel something
Do you have a favorite Christmas film?
Um, no. I, I cannot,
I cannot tell you one. Really. Uh, I like Christmas movies when it's Christmas,
but I grew up with a Christmas,
so my Christmas experience actually come from Europe and, uh,
living in Australia and Cuba, Christmas wasn't a thing. So
the whole religious part of it wasn't a thing. So, Mm-Hmm.
It was a communist country. Religious was not something that people was,
you know, will openly, uh, endorse.
And Christmas wasn't a thing in ua. The tradition is more ve So what,
what is for you? Christmas for us is ve uh, the whole family thing.
We don't have the presents. We just have a lot of food and get drunk. But the,
but yeah, I don't have enough knowledge of Christmas movie to tell you one.
Okay. Star Wars or Star Trek.
I had a feeling it was gonna go that way on this one. And your favorite color?
Uh, I don't have one. That's a, that, that's a very bad man. You're,
you're hitting me with questions that I cannot answer.
I don't have a favorite color. I don't have a favorite food. Uh, I love all the,
all the seasons, but if I have to say a color, probably, uh, I will say green.
Maybe green? Yeah.
No, your jump is slightly green.
Yeah, it is kind of green, but it's not my favorite color.
My favorite color is more like kind of wheel green that you get, um, um,
in the afternoons. It's a kind of a bluish green.
Okay. A tur, turquoisey, tealy green.
Alexis, what do you do outside of, besides Cook? Do you have any other hobbies?
Uh, I have a lot of hobbies that I would love, love to get into.
I love photography, but I, I don't have any time to do any of that. Uh,
massive collection of cameras, lenses and all that. Books to read,
filters and flashes. Um, I think mostly, uh,
going out, going to the city, wandering around.
I don't have many hobbies really. Uh, oh, well, something,
something that I really love is to, um,
go to the forest and harbor mushrooms. I do that every, every often.
So foraging stuff,
I'm gonna switch back into work mode. Uh,
could you give me really quickly, we are quite close to the hour,
who've been your inspirations? I think I probably know this already. Yeah.
Who's actually helped shape your career? Guess?
Guess who? Yeah. Andy. Andy, of course. Yeah.
And what's your favorite conference?
Favorite conference that I attended or
That you go to that what, what's your, what, what do you
Uh, typically, typically cyto typically will be cyto. Yeah.
And why weren't there this year?
Huh? Well, I wasn't there. I, I cannot be here all, all the time. But yeah,
I love cyto. I love cyto,
I love people in cyto and I love the whole nerdy college, you know,
convention kind of side of it.
And all the fans and all the parties have the conference as well.
Do you have a favorite cyto that you've been to? Hmm.
I don't know. I would say probably one of the first ones that I went to. Uh,
I went to one in Montreal many, many years ago,
and that was when I met most of you guys. Um, I met Andy there as well,
and Simon Moner and all the, the, you know, the English, uh,
gang. So it was the first one and it was very good as well.
There was a, I think there was a kind of nice workshop on sensitivity, uh,
that ended up in a kind of massive intellectual fight and that was interesting
to witness and yeah, and, and I love Canada when I went there.
You think there's less of that now of those intellectual discussions and fights
based on fights? I know it's just opinions and strong opinions know they,
they're not really fights, but yeah. Do you think this, I think there's pure a
Yeah, I think, you know, there, there still are. It depends on the topic.
I think the one that I went to was the sensitivity of QB and,
and all these things that most people find like kind of offensive in a way
because they did cytometry for many, many years without, without ever,
ever thinking of sat or sensitivity in terms of quantum efficiency background
and things like that. So yeah,
it was more like a reaction to something new and something truly useful.
Um, I've heard that there have been discussions as well around things like
nanoparticle detection. Yeah. Anything that is hot.
Clearly you will have big passionate people. Uh, and that's awesome. I mean,
that's awesome. I don't, I don't think that will be that frequent. I mean,
if you're go into and you're sitting and look looking at a lecture, uh,
most likely you will not get that kind of fight the time it's limited anyway.
Um, I think workshops are the best place to do that when you have people openly
discussing and you have, uh, space for questions and, and answers. But,
and when people gather on the same topic and they all experts in a way and they
have their views on things, I think that's something that, yeah,
it's very good to have.
I think it's interesting you say you,
that first site you met so many of us and that helps with the networking.
How well networked is Australia for Flow?
How well is Australia? Oh,
It is. It is a, it is. I mean, Australia,
Melbourne has a massive amount of sites doing cytometry and
where I work, it's actually like a hub that is very close. It's not to the city.
It's very close to the city, like walking distance, 10 minutes to the CVD,
to the commercial center.
But you have a lot of research institute in that place at the same time.
So I have imagine Simon Mon is across the road.
You have a cancer center next by and Yeah, it's a smaller group, but it's,
yeah, we're connected and they have the, the, the, the ACS,
the Isolation Society as optometry meetings as well every year. So yeah, it's,
it is a small but kind of close crowd. Yeah.
Which, which is good, isn't it? I think it's important that,
that those networks exist and Cyto is quite often a good place to meet and
develop national networks, not just from the international side. Yeah.
We are so close up to the hour and I'm gonna ask you just
one more question. Where do you see the future of flow cytometry going?
Sensitivity colors, user friendliness, what,
what's gonna make the biggest change? You know, what's the next step change?
Can you predict that?
Do you have a feel what you'd like the next step change to be?
Hmm. Hmm. That's a good question. I think we are,
I mean, based on what, how things are going,
I will imagine things will become more and more of, uh,
small enclosed instruments. Uh,
I don't think there is an instrument that will match all the needs.
So I think that it's still space for diversity. Um,
otherwise we have been threatened several times by different technologies coming
with new ideas and, you know,
doing better what optometry have failed to achieve.
So it's a little bit like a reactive kind of field. It doesn't work.
Sometimes it works by reaction to something else.
So I would say that the new thing Isometry will be,
will be coming from a challenge or someone else trying to challenge the
technology altogether as they have been so far. Uh,
sensitivity is something that is interesting because although it's something
truly important for, uh, accommodating more and more, um,
challenging applications is not the main ditch in cytometry,
so might be still heavily influenced by immunology and immunophenotyping.
So whatever they need is a market that most companies will go for,
which is sad because matic can do much more than just covering the needs of
immunology. Um, but yeah, I cannot anticipate essentially where it's going.
I'm hoping to see, for instance,
you sorting with imaging and seeing how it looks like, have you had one,
have you tried the, the BD sorter?
I, I've got good details. I it not had it in my hands yet.
Yeah, yeah. But it looks,
we hopefully get one interesting at the end of the year just to look.
There will be a demo here, but yeah, that's,
I think what they've done, how they've executed. It's, it's good. Yeah.
Yeah. I, I would love one, but I'm not sure whether we'll get one or not.
I don't know if you get the same,
but when I ask users about the imaging side of things,
like are you interested in doing sorting with imaging?
If I'm asking immunologists, they,
they don't care really in the past, again,
when I ask, but asking things like, do you need a spectro at, they will say,
oh no, we are fine with the ESAs. And then when you get the spectro at,
they all like it. Yeah. And they all want to use it. So it's a little bit like,
it's a very funny thing,
like users tend to be a little bit conservative sometimes they are used to an
instrument and they want to keep them. Um,
so I don't know actually how useful it will be.
I know that some people doing marine biology will benefit from the imaging side
of things, people that don't have many markers. Yeah.
And they want to actually look at the morphology of things as a distinguishing
factor. But yeah, I cannot think of anything else.
I think my fear is that it will become more and more user-friendly. Uh,
Cytometer small enough to be sold as to as many people as possible.
and you will still have the challenge of cytometry because there are so many
ways in which you can produce wrong data in cytometry.
So if you don't know what you're doing, you, I don't think there is a truly, um,
absolutely friendly, uh,
without the requirement of some expertise to back things up and to understand
That's where could make a big change.
Because at the moment, you're right, sorters can be easy,
but the ability to know how to gate properly Yeah.
To get your populations are not contaminated. But
let's see where this space goes. Alexis, we are up to the hour,
so I'm gonna say thank you very much. Everyone who's listened or watch,
please do go back. You've heard about Ru, you know,
you've heard about other Cytometers. Go back,
listen to the back catalog of them. But Alexis,
you've been great to have on today, uh,
for me early morning for you late afternoon, uh,
bigger time zone difference to normal.
But it's been great to get to know you a bit more personally, uh,
which is super cool. And I look forward to you cooking for us. Yeah,
hopefully. Take care, Peter. Thank you so much.
Enjoy your day.