If you’re interested in science, biology, technology, mathematics, computers and are at a point in your life when you are thinking about your future career, and what it might look like, you should join us on Thursday 27 August, 6pm.

Four early-career scientists and researchers from the Wellcome Genome Campus near Cambridge (UK) will be chatting together about what they do, how they got to where they are, and how their work will shape the future landscape of genomics and biodata.  They will be joined by Dr Alex Lathbridge, scientist, comedian, and host of the award-winning podcast, ‘Why Aren’t You A Doctor Yet?’. We’re all very excited!

The Wellcome Genome Campus, if you’ve not heard of it before, is world-famous in the field of genomics and computational biology and is home to two of the leading institutes in these areas, the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI). They work together to deliver life-changing science at a reach and scale that seeks to understand some of humanity’s greatest challenges. If you want to work in genomics or computational biology, this is a great place to be.

The event was recorded - watch it here:

Before the talk, we thought it would be a good idea to meet the panel, and ask them a few questions.

Tapoka Mkandawire, PhD student studying parasites and microbiomes, Wellcome Sanger Institute

  1. Tapoka Mkandawire
    Tapoka, hanging out with the DNA plaque at Royal Kew Botanic Gardens

Q: What do you do?

I work with the human gut; the gut is a hive of activity with lots of different individuals working together. All these activities have different effects and can make us healthy or feel unwell. The individuals I am interested in are the gut bacteria and the whipworm. Whipworm affects millions of people in tropical countries and can make children very ill. The bacteria in our guts talk to the worms and understanding what messages are shared between them will help us beat this disease.

Q: What do you find most interesting about your work?

The best thing is getting to collaborate on projects, both in and out of science, with so many interesting people. This often leads to travelling in the UK and further afield and learning so much about science and the world at large.

Q: What did you do before the job you do now?

I studied at the University of Manchester and worked for a gene therapy company in Oxford.

Tell us some fun facts about yourself:

When I’m not experimenting in the lab, I’m normally experimenting with food- trying new recipes or restaurants. I also like to get out into nature for a good long walk, or stay in with a good book.

Dr Piv Gopalasingam, Scientific Training Officer, EMBL-EBI

  1. Piv Gopalasingam
    Piv amongst coffee plant varieties at Cenicafé coffee research station in Caldas, Colombia
Q: What do you do?

I organise and deliver bioinformatics training in the UK and abroad. Our aim is to help people improve their skills in bioinformatics, computational biology and data analysis, particularly while using EMBL-EBI’s public data resources. I also deliver instructor training and support trainers in the design of training sessions and courses, particularly for Latin America as part of the CABANA project.

Q: What do you find most interesting about your work?

I’m incredibly lucky to be working alongside colleagues in Latin America to build a sustainable bioinformatics training programme. This has involved meeting loads of talented scientists in the region, going on a few unforgettable trips, and gaining more experience in the field of capacity development.

Q: What did you do before the job you do now?

Immediately before my current job, I spent two fun years at Kingston University London running and assisting biochemistry teaching. Before that I was a researcher in the West Midlands (Universities of Birmingham and Warwick) investigating the shapes of human proteins and how they may change shape when attaching to other molecules in the body. The most well-known protein I studied was the insulin receptor, which can bind insulin, and I have also worked with proteins involved in low-light vision, antiviral immunity and cancer initiation. Each of these proteins has their own personality and it was great getting to know them though something tells me these were one-sided relationships…

Tell us some fun facts about yourself:

I enjoy playing board games, running and martial arts. I love learning new things and trying out new stuff – in 2019 I joined a summer volleyball league having never played and brewed beer from scratch!

Menna Ghouraba, Advanced Research Assistant, Wellcome Sanger Institute

  1. Menna Ghouraba
Q: What do you do?

I am working on trying to understand the types of cells, and genes that cause inflammatory bowel diseases, which will be of great help for developing more effective treatments for those diseases. I do that through single cell RNA sequencing of gut tissue, looking at gene expression of the different cell types. The work involves a mix of lab work and computer analysis, I do the experimental part of it.

Q: What do you find most interesting about your work?

I find it thrilling to try to understand the complexity of human cells, how they work, and how they become faulty. Studying the DNA, gene regulation, and the impact of that is mind blowing. It is also very motivating to try solving these puzzles for a great purpose, helping improve lives of thousands of patients.

Q: What did you do before the job you do now?

I worked as a teaching assistant while doing my masters of biotechnology, a job that I loved a lot and hope to teach again later in my academic career. I also worked in clinical research, where we did trials for newly developed drugs.

Tell us some fun facts about yourself:

I love cooking and sharing food, if I couldn’t make it to the science career (which is my biggest passion), I would have loved to have a restaurant somewhere by the sea.

Dr Virginie Uhlmann, Research Group Leader, EMBL-EBI

  1. Virginie Uhlmann with cockatiel Stuart
    Virginie with Stuart, her cockatiel
Q: What do you do?

I am particularly interested in the shape of living things, for instance how cells change their shape as they grow older and when they get sick.  My job involves ‘teaching’ computers to describe the shape of the cells they see in microscopy images. They can then very rapidly scan through thousands of images from different experiments and tell biologists what cells look like in them, saving them lots of time.

Q: What do you find most interesting about your work?

In research, there is constantly new science being produced, new ideas to test, old concepts to catch up on, previously unnoticed aspects to explore. Every day offers something to learn and challenges to take, both at the scientific and human level. Sure, it can be daunting sometimes, but the way it pushes me to develop scientifically and personally is priceless.

Q: What did you do before the job you do now?

I was doing research at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland. Before that, I spent some time in various labs in Heidelberg (Germany) and in the other Cambridge (Massachusetts, USA). My work in these various places was always somehow related to image analysis and biology.

Tell us some fun facts about yourself:

I am the happy owner of a small parrot (cockatiel) named Stuart, who has been waking me up at first daylight with improvised songs for the past 6 years. I am also an avid rock climber – coming from a small village in the Swiss mountains, I used to spend most of my free time climbing in the Alps.

Dr Alex Lathbridge, biochemist, computational biologist, comedian, and audio producer

  1. Alex Lathbridge

Alex studied biochemistry as an undergraduate, with a research focus on molecular modelling of protein-protein interactions in migraine pathways, and has a PhD in novel peptide therapeutics.  He is an avid science communicator, regularly performs science stand-up, hosts several podcasts (including his own and BBC Radio 4’s ‘Scientifically…’), reports for the BBC World Service’s ‘CrowdScience’, and more!

Q: How do you manage to be so many things (see impressive list of job titles) all at once?

I’m very talented, hate self-care and seem committed to pathologically convert relaxing hobbies into stressful revenue streams until the day I die.

Q: What do you find most exciting about working in science?

Its effect on my bank account come the 25th of the month and the pipe-dream that I might own property in London one day.

We’ve heard you’re impressively knowledgeable about the science of cooking (biochemically speaking). Go on, spill the beans then!

Is this the science version of “We took a look at your website and it says that you speak Spanish. Go on – say some words then”? [Editor: yup]

How else could we expect a comedian to reply?!

To meet these talented scientists, hear more, and ask them questions, join us on zoom on 27 August, 6-7.30pm, for ‘Genomic Futures’, part of our Genome Lates: A special Human Genome Project Anniversary Season series of conversations.

The event is free but please make sure to register in advance: https://bit.ly/GenomeLates

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