PhD students ready to ‘dive deep’

Posted: 30th March 2021

Dr Davis McCarthy values everything a good PhD student brings to his lab team – creativity, enthusiasm and, most importantly, new ideas. “When a PhD student joins a research group, they have already completed their formal classroom study, and join the lab as an independent thinker,” says Davis, Head of SVI’s Bioinformatics & Cellular Genomics Unit. “They are scientists in their own right and have the ability to dive deep into the research problems we’re trying to solve.”

PhD student Ruqian Lyu is key to one of Davis’ current projects, analysing data generated from mouse experiments in Dr Wayne Crismani’s DNA Repair & Recombination Lab. The joint goal is to better understand the function of a particular gene in DNA repair and determine how mutations in this gene impact fertility.

“This gene is implicated in the growth of cancer and the process of meiosis – in which genetic information is organised as it transfers from parents to children, resulting in the production of sperm and egg cells,” says Davis.

“We needed a PhD student with computational skills who could analyse the sequence data and who could grasp the biology. Basically, we needed someone who had the insight to marry all these abilities, to effectively analyse the outputs of our experiments. Ruqian Lyu fits this bill perfectly.”

From Ruqian’s perspective, the project ticked a lot of boxes as well.

“I had prior experience in data sets analysis, and I have a personal interest in health studies,” she explains. “I will be determining how a genome is put together with genomic data from many single cells of one individual; until now, this could only be done with genomic data from large populations. It is really exciting that today we can do this type of personalised genetics.”

Ruqian plans to use her SVI experience to publish on the software programs she uses and develops, bringing her findings to the attention of the research community. “As a PhD student, I feel lucky to have two supportive supervisors. They’re always up for having a discussion, and I learn from their ideas.”

Ruqian is the recipient of a SVI Foundation Top-up Scholarship.

For more information please see: Bioinformatics & cellular genomics