Where were you based before joining the Crick?
I was a postdoc at the Dunn School of Pathology at Oxford, focusing on influenza viruses. Before that, I was doing a postdoc in biophysics and studying how enzymes transcribe DNA. I’ve always been interested in working in a range of fields, but was drawn to virology and pathology and the chance to see the impact of our research on relatively short timescales.
What are your plans for the group at the Crick?
Broadly, we’ll be looking at RNA viruses. This is a big group of viruses that generally cause pretty nasty diseases and it includes things like Ebola, influenza, rabies and notably now SARS-CoV-2. More specifically, we’ll be looking at how RNA viruses use the unique features of their genetic material to their advantage. DNA arranges itself into a double helix, but RNA can adopt completely different structures and almost every RNA virus uses its ability to reconfigure its RNA to do something useful
What attracted you to the Crick initially?
Because I’ve worked across a few different fields, moving from genomics to biophysics to pathology, I couldn’t picture a single department where I’d be comfortable and able to do everything that I wanted to do. The Crick isn’t divided into faculties or departments and interactions between different fields are explicitly encouraged. It seemed like a perfect fit. I’ll be able to collaborate with biophysicists, immunologists, virologists and biochemists without even leaving the building.
Who are you looking forward to working with?
There is a huge number of people that I’m looking forward to working with. I’ve been partly based at the Crick since the summer and have already started up some projects with Nicholas Luscombe, Jernej Ule, Andreas Wack, John McCauley and the Worldwide Influenza Centre, as well as the Translation Team, led by Veronique Birault.
I’m also eager to work with is the science technology platforms (STPs) at the Crick. They play a much bigger role than core facilities do traditionally, and working with them is a genuinely collaborative process. You can come to them with a seed of an idea and a hunch that you’ve found something interesting and you’re able to work with them to develop a project and find the best techniques for your question.
But I’m most looking forward to working with the new members of my group — we’ll be up to a gang of three soon!
How have the first few months been?
Exciting! Having the opportunity to be in the building has been extremely important. We’ve already started projects that I couldn’t have imagined before I started working at the Crick, and they’re all thanks to being able to be in the building and interact in person.
The blanket mandatory testing for everyone coming into the Crick has made a huge difference by making these in person interactions possible, and I’m certain that we’re making better progress as a result.