Profile
Academic biography
My undergraduate studies in Cellular and Molecular Biochemistry at the University of Oxford and biopharmaceutical work experience fostered my early interest in computational biology. Subsequent formalisation of my training through an MSc in Bioinformatics at Imperial College London equipped me with the skills necessary to pursue my doctoral studies in comparative genomics. My thesis detailed the computational comparative analysis of insect genomes, focusing on the immune system of disease-vector mosquitoes. During my postdoctoral research at the University of Geneva Medical School I developed and supervised projects in arthropod genomics with many international collaborations, to understand principles of molecular evolution and genome biology. As a Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology I successfully led the comparative analysis of multiple mosquito genomes. Returning to Switzerland, I am developing my independent research group supported by the award of a Swiss National Science Foundation Assistant Professorship (Professeur boursier FNS) at the Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne , with a focus on the comparative evolutionary and functional genomics of disease-vector mosquitoes and other insects.
About me
Born in the Kingdom of Swaziland – a small, land-locked developing country found nestling between South Africa and Mozambique – and growing up on a cattle farm in the lowveld miles from the nearest paved road, it is perhaps hardly surprising that I developed an interest in the natural world around me. Although there were always plenty of larger creatures to distract me, the incredible variety and sheer numbers of different insects could not be ignored – especially when they insisted on coming inside and making themselves at home. Mosquitoes in particular certainly left an impression – not only with their annoying bites and incessant buzzing, but also with the threat of malaria, which I contracted twice as a child. Surviving these and other perils, I completed my primary and secondary schooling in Swaziland before leaving for university in the UK in 2000. Now living in Switzerland on the shores of Lake Geneva, I study insect genomes, their encoded genes, and how they have evolved – especially those of my childhood tormentors, the disease-carrying mosquitoes!
Curriculum Vitae
Education & Research
 

  • 01/2016-02/2017 SIB maître assistant at the University of Geneva Medical School , in the research group of Prof. Evgeny Zdobnov, leading the group's arthropod genomics and BUSCO projects, supporting OrthoDB orthology delineation, mentoring PhD students, and Postdoctoral researchers.
 

 
  • 05/2009-12/2012: Postdoctoral Research Assistant at the University of Geneva Medical School , supervised by Prof. Evgeny Zdobnov, directed the group’s research projects with a focus on arthropod genomics and eukaryotic orthology delineation, and mentored one PhD student.
 
         Thesis: Computational Comparative Analysis of Insect Genomes.       Viva voce: 11th Sept. 2009
 
  • 10/2004-09/2005: One year interdisciplinary Master of Science in Bioinformatics at Imperial College London : programming, databases, mathematics & statistics, computational biology.
 
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  • 01/1998-11/1999: International Baccalaureate in Swaziland, at Waterford Kamhlaba  United World College of Southern Africa. 39/45 for Biology, Chemistry, English, French, History and Mathematics.
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Awards                                                                                            see                                  for details
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  • Prof. Philippe Halban Travel Award , 2016, GEDEV, University of Geneva.  8th International Meeting on Molecular & Population Biology of Mosquitoes & Other Disease Vectors Travel Award , 2017, EMBO Meetings.  10th Annual Arthropod Genomics Symposium Travel Award , 2017, AGS Notre Dame.

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  • EMBO Long Term Fellowship : Two-year award for the Anopheles genomes project, declined in favour of the three-year Marie Curie Fellowship.
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  • Successfully competed for the prestigious award of a four-year Wellcome Trust PhD Fellowship , with full funding support for the masters and doctoral programmes at Imperial College London from 2004 to 2008.
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  • New College Scholarship for outstanding academic performance in biochemistry at the University of Oxford, 2003.
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Community Roles & Responsibilities

  • Review manuscripts for: Allergy, Bioinformatics, BMC Evolutionary Biology, BMC Genomics, Briefings in Bioinformatics, Genetics, Genome Biology & Evolution, Genome Research, Genomics, GigaScience, Insect Molecular Biolology, Journal of Molecular Evolution, Malaria Journal, Molecular Biology & Evolution, Nucleic Acids Research, Nature, Nature Genetics, Parasites & Vectors, PLoS Computational Biology, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, PLoS One, PNAS, Science Advances, & Trends in Parasitology.

  • Review grants for: BBSRC UK, FWF Austria.

  • Associate Editor for: BMC Genomics.

  • Mentorship: masters student at Imperial College London - evolution of gene order in mosquitoes. Summer student - orthology quality control, masters student - lineage-specific orthologs, pre-PhD and PhD students - arthropod synteny and genomics, and postdoctoral researchers - arthropod genomics - at the University of Geneva Medical School, PhD student and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Lausanne Dept. of Ecology & Evolution.
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  • VectorBase Scientific User Group: To learn about VectorBase's new data and new tools and resources, and provide feedback, suggest new features and help test them, and provide input on outreach plans and opportunities - MEMBERS .

  • International Aphid Genomics Consortium  steering committee member. The committee helps to drive community efforts in post-genomics approaches as well as new aphid genome projects.
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  • FlyBase Community Advisory Group: The FlyBase Community Advisory Group ( FCAG ) was launched in September 2014 with the aim of gaining greater feedback from the community about changes at FlyBase.
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  • i5K Consortium: The i5K initiative is a transformative project that aims to sequence and analyze the genomes of 5,000 arthropod species. Species selection is driven by our common goal to better understand arthropod evolution and phylogeny through studies of species known to be important to worldwide agriculture, food safety, medicine, energy production, models in biology, those species most abundant in world ecosystems, and representatives in every branch of insect phylogeny.
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  • NESCent Working Group Building non-model species genome curation communities , this group aims to bring together software engineers and biologists that - instead of addressing a particular evolutionary question – are proposing to design and implement the software that is essential in evolutionary genomics so that questions can be asked in the first place. Since our NESCent meetings we continue to work together to champion these ideas in the field.

Teaching & Workshops

  • WGS Assembly and Annotation Winter School 2018. Genome Assembly and Annotation: the long and the short of it. A week-long mountain retreat of lectures and practical sessions with ~30 students organised by ETH Zürich. Monte Verita, Ascona 4 - 9 February 2018.


  • Arthropod Bioinformatics Workshop preceeding the 10th Annual Arthropod Genomics Symposium, Notre Dame University, June 2017. Organiser and lecturer: hands-on workshops on AphidBase, i5k Workspace@NAL, Hymenoptera Genome Database, VectorBase, Lepbase, Panoptes; Anopheles gambiae 1000 genomes project, Apollo, Gene Ontology, OrthoDB, & BUSCO.
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  • Genome annotation jamboree of the pine tree pest, Sirex noctilio . Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute, University of Pretoria, South Africa, March 2017.  a two-week annotation jamboree where we focused on learning about different types of genomics data and how we could apply them to improving gene annotations of genes from families of particular biological interest and desiging comparative genomics analyses to better understand the biology of this invasive pest.


  • Biocuration training programme for arthropod genomics in South Africa , November-December 2016. Practical training in biocuration skills to enable participants to make the most of the publically-available genomic resources to further their own research projects. The South African National Bioinformatics Institute, University of the Western Cape; the Institute of Infectious Disease & Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town; Wits Research Institute for Malaria, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; and The Genomics Research Institute, University of Pretoria.
 
 
  • Genome Train Workshop: organiser of the interactive learning event with some 100 participants - a participatory workshop on genomics training where the main considerations for each stage of a genome sequencing project are introduced - at the 9th Annual Arthropod Genomics Symposium , Kansas, June 2015.
 
  • VectorBase Hands-on Workshop Instructor: interactive demonstrations with 20 to 30 participants on using VectorBase online resources - a mixture of lectures and hands-on practical sessions where users can discuss their own data sets/problems with the instructors and fellow attendees.  National Institutes of Health , Maryland, the University of Notre Dame , Indiana, and Imperial College London , UK.
 
  • Portes ouvertes aux collégiens: University of Geneva school student engagement workshop - "Collégiennes et collégiens ont eu la possibilité de s'immerger, le temps d’une journée, dans le monde des études universitaires -  Portes ouvertes ".
 
  • Guest bioinformatics lectures: Biochemistry Department, Universidad Mayor de San Andres, La Paz, Bolivia.


Selected Conferences & Meetings
 
  • 8th International Meeting on Molecular & Population Biology of Mosquitoes & Other Disease Vectors, Kolymbari, Crete, Greece, 07. 2017.

  • 10th Annual Arthropod Genomics Symposium, Notre Dame University, USA, 06. 2017.

  • 3rd international workshop on Aedes albopictus the Asian tiger mosquito, Pavia, Italy, 04.2017.
  • Seminar: Institut Pasteur, Paris, France, 02. 2017.

  • XXV International Congress of Entomology, Orlando, USA, 09. 2016.

  • Seminar: Dep. of Genetics, Evolution & Environment, University College London, UK, 08. 2016.

  • Belgrade BioInformatics Conference, Serbia, 06. 2016.
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  • Biocuration 2016. Geneva, Switzerland, 04.2016.
  • Seminar: UC Riverside, Center for Disease Vector Research, USA, 01. 2016.
  • Plant and Animal Genomes XXIV, San Diego, USA, 01. 2016.
  • Seminar: Symbiose, INRIA/Irisa, Université de Rennes-1, France, 12. 2015.
  • The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene - American Committee of Medical Entomology, Philadelphia, USA, 10. 2015.
  • 7th International Meeting on Molecular & Population Biology of Mosquitoes & Other Disease Vectors, Kolymbari, Crete, Greece, 07. 2015.
  • 9th Annual Arthropod Genomics Symposium, Manhattan Kansas, USA, 06. 2015.
  • Seminar: Department of Ecology & Evolution, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, 03. 2015.
  • Entomological Society of America - The Futures of Insect Genomics, Portland, USA, 11. 2014.
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  • Seminar: New England Biolabs, Ipswich, USA, 10. 2014.
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  • International Symposium on Molecular Insect Science, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 07. 2014.
  • Non-Model Species Genome Curation Communities, NESCent, USA, four meetings, 2013-2015.
  • Should we engineer the mosquito? Boston Museum of Science, USA. 11. 2013.
  • Seminar: The Broad Institute of Harvard & MIT, Cambridge, USA, 11. 2013.
  • Seminar: Biological Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, USA, 09. 2013.
  • Quest for Orthologs III, Université de Lausanne, Switzerland, 07. 2013.
  • 6th International Meeting on Molecular & Population Biology of Mosquitoes & Other Disease Vectors, Kolymbari, Crete, Greece, 07. 2013.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


  • Seminar: Alexander Koenig Research Museum, Bonn, Germany, 07. 2013.
  • 7th Annual Arthropod Genomics Symposium, Notre Dame University, USA, 06. 2013.
  • Seminar: Institut f. Integrative Biologie, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, 04. 2013.
  • VectorBase Workshop, NIH Bethesda, USA, 01. 2013.
  • Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics Conference, Bienne, Switzerland, 01. 2012.
  • 6th Annual Arthropod Genomics Symposium, Kansas City, USA, 06. 2012.
  • Seminar: Department of Biology & Biochemistry, University of Bath, UK, 11. 2011.
  • 5th International Meeting on Molecular & Population Biology of Mosquitoes & Other  Disease Vectors, Kolymbari, Crete, Greece, 07. 2011.
  • 5th Annual Arthropod Genomics Symposium, Kansas City, USA, 06. 2011.
  • 4th Annual Arthropod Genomics Symposium, Kansas City, USA, 06. 2010.
  • Information Systems for Insect Pests, Rennes, France, 11. 2009.
  • 4th International Meeting on Molecular & Population Biology of Mosquitoes & Other Disease Vectors, Kolymbari, Crete, Greece, 07. 2009.
 
  • International Congress of Entomology, Durban, South Africa, 07. 2008.
 
  • 3rd International Meeting on Molecular & Population Biology of Mosquitoes & Other Disease Vectors, Kolymbari, Crete, Greece, 07. 2007.
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