I went to school and university in Germany.
German equivalent to International Baccalaureate, German equivalent to combined BSc/MSc in biology, PhD in genetics at Bochum university, Germany.
I jobbed in a hospital’s operation theatre during university. After my masters I worked as a project manager for an engineering company. After my PhD I started at the Sanger Institute as a computer biologist annotating genes in the human genome, then moved to be a programmer for the wormbase project. I then became the project manager for the analysis and production of the zebrafish genome assembly and then the scientific manager for a team checking and improving genome assemblies, all at Sanger.
I lead a team at the Sanger Institute that makes sure all genome sequence assemblies are the best they could be. We analyse the assemblies, identify mistakes and fix them and release them to the public. Our team is called GRIT (for Genome Reference Informatics Team).
I work for the Tree of Life Programme at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Hinxton, Cambridge
I’m fascinated by how life works and love investigating and bringing order to data. Working in bioinformatics dealing with genome data is therefore more a hobby than a job!
I live in Cambridge with my two daughters and our hamster. I love pottering around in the garden, reading anything I find, hiking with friends and singing in a chamber choir. I also like nerding about science fiction, fantasy and linguistics.
Using computing to make sense of genome sequence data.
I have always been interested in how living things work, but also love my numbers, so I studied maths (a bit) and biology (a lot). After working in a genetics lab for a long time to get a PhD, I had enough of all that lab mess (I hate cooking so should have gotten the hint earlier) and turned to (bio)informatics, loving to see how all my efforts there were rewarded with shiny new data and a deeper understanding of how everything fits together. Working with genome sequencing data trying to assemble it into chromosomes, I realised pretty early on that if you don’t get your genome assemblies right, all the other research based on them will make lots of mistakes, so I tried to find new ways of making genome assemblies perfect.
Many years later I now have a highly successful team of 11 people working on exactly this for many big international projects. These projects hand over their genome assemblies to us and we take them and correct all the errors that are still in there (and there still are a lot) and make beautiful chromosome assemblies for all those animals, plants and fungi that can then be used by all the scientists out there.
I'm currently solving this problem:
How can we make sure that all teams that work on our project work together well and know everything they need to know? How can we deal with the incredible amount of data that is coming our way without slowing down or getting sidetracked?
I'm currently working on these species doing this:
We just got the first plant assemblies and I’m very interested in what they look like. So far we’ve mainly dealt with vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) and insects, so plants will be a new challenge.
How has your work progressed recently?
We had to do what we do faster and for more things. This scaling up was challenging, but I think we're set up well and will manage.
What have you got planned for your research over the next year?
We need to make sure we can deal with the most complicated genomes out there, the really big ones, the ones with many many chromosomes and the ones where the genome sequence is so repetitive that you can't tell left from right.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
perfectionist genome tinkerer
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
The beauty of clean data.
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
First an astronaut, then a linguist, a surgeon, a mathematician and then a biologist.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I think I talked too much.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Professional classical singer, if only I were good enough...
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Florence & the machine
What's your favourite food?
A bowl of berries, any kind.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Skiing, no matter where and when.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Someone inventing beaming so that I can easily visit friends and family in Germany, having a great singing voice and having someone renovating my house.