Photo:

Ricardo Ramirez

Favourite Thing: When stuff just works.

My CV

Education:

BSc at ITESM-CCM (2003-2007, undergrad in Mexico is at least 4.5 years!). MSc at UEA (2008-2009), Norwich. Currently becoming a PhD at TGAC/JIC/UEA

Qualifications:

BSc in Computer Science and Software Engineering, MSc in Bioinformatics.

Work History:

Software development for stock market brokers (2006-2008). Bioinformatics at TGAC (2010-2012).

Current Job:

PhD student.

Employer:

The Genome Analysis Centre.

Me and my work

I help farmer choose wheat that survives disease and produce better bread

I am currently doing my PhD  on Biological Sciences, but I don’t usually do lab work. I spend most of my research in front of my computer, doing data analysis and writing computer programs to help me in the process.  Currently I’m making tools to work with the wheat genome,  which is 6 times bigger than the human genome!  But I’m not alone, I relay on the help of other scientists to make sense of everything and increase our understanding on how to improve wheat.

To improve plants, we compare plants with different properties (size, quality of the grain, resistance to disease, etc..), called phenotypes. By crossing two plants with different phenotypes you can compare the descendants and figure out which one look more like the mother or the father, and when comparing their genes you can identify which one is “linked” to the phenotype (and sometimes, surprise surprise! the father is not who you think it was!). It takes some time, as you need to wait a full year from the time you cross the parents to the time you can collect data! But once you can predict how a plant will look from a seed, the farmers can choose it.

My Typical Day

A typical day? what is typical?

There is not such a thing as a typical day. From the outside it may look as if I’m always in front of the computer. Sometimes reading, sometimes writing, sometimes doing data analysis. And sometimes, just wondering. Wondering on the what-if that follows.

Most of the days I spend some time telling the computer what to do. Not just point and click, but writing the algorithms that will give new functions to the computers in the institute. I like programming because it is only when you are able to tell to the computer how to do something that you are sure that you understand the problem you are solving.  If the problem I’m solving, I loose the track of time, I think I’m lucky that my main activity is something I really like doing, so it never feels as a burden.

Sometimes I end up in seminars, and in some of them I end up imagining how I would solve the same set of problems, or how I would design an experiment. I enjoy when people are able to tell a story from the data and it is quite humbling when you realise that you will never be able to be an expert on everything. But that is ok, we form societies where everybody can be specialised on what they do best or feel more interest.

What I'd do with the money

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Curious, active, open-minded

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Do I have to pick?

What's your favourite food?

Proper mexican food.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Travel across the globe.

What did you want to be after you left school?

A wanderer

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Define trouble.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Maybe computing, or maybe maths.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Get sponsored to travel :P

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

I guess my father. Also, I had to run away from “industry”.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

A software architect.

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

time to travel (more), money to travel (more) and a network of clones sharing memories scattered across the universe.

Tell us a joke.

An engineer thinks that his equations are an approximation to reality. A physicist thinks reality is an approximation to his equations. A mathematician doesn’t care.

Other stuff

Work photos: