What were you doing before joining the Crick?
I was finishing a medical degree at the University of Washington in Seattle. Before that, I completed my PhD in Jay Shendure’s group, also at UW.
Did working in the clinic change your view of your research?
It certainly did. Most of my research experience came before I entered the clinic – I was enrolled in a combined MD/PhD programme, in which the most intense clinical work comes last. At that point, seeing how genetic testing is deployed clinically and how patients experience it made me realise how commonly the same problems come up and think more about how we can address them in lab.
The programme also showed me the value of clear communication in science and medicine. As a researcher, you often have access to huge amounts of information on a topic, but in the clinic what’s key is knowing how to pass on the most crucial information to patients in an effective way.
And what are your plans for your lab at the Crick?
We do functional genomics research – using existing tools and creating new ones to make our genomes as interpretable as possible. We want to make sense of all the information that’s contained within each individual’s genome and use it to guide the development of new treatments and diagnostic tools.
I’m looking forward to working with people at the Crick on expanding our high-throughput experimental techniques. I hope the data we generate will allow us to identify which mutations are responsible for a person’s propensity to disease and which mutations affect how well people respond to different treatments. This has been a difficult problem to solve historically, but I think we can speed up the pace of progress quite a bit.
What are you looking forward to in building your group?
As a scientist, you’re constantly teaching people, but it isn’t often a formal part of your job until you become an independent researcher. I’m looking forward to that part of being a group leader. I find it really exciting to see the confidence grow in trainees as people learn new techniques and start to get intriguing results.
What was the recruitment process like with the current restrictions?
Luckily, I was able to visit the Crick and have most of my interviews back in early March before lockdown began. This meant that I could see the building and meet people in person and see what the Crick is like when things are running normally. After that point, I obviously couldn’t visit, meet people or see how my lab space was being set up. I did feel like I was going in blind in a sense!
What attracted you to the Crick?
Well, I was partially drawn to the chance to work in another country! But the main attraction was the breadth of research happening at the Crick. The building is very well set up to support collaborations with labs working in different fields and I found that really appealing. It keeps things interesting.