Raony, Bioinformatics

Firefighting

raonyAn interview with Senior Bioinformatician, Raony Guimaraes, by Eimear Doyle.

It was not without trepidation that I approached this interview with Raony. A what? A Bioinformatician? Never heard of it! Would I even know what to ask him? Give me accountants, business development geeks, salespeople, financiers any day, and I can talk the talk…

So here goes…an insight into the world of “Science and Genomics”

Raony, tell us what you do on a typical working day?

My typical day usually is a mixture of reading, writing, coding, meetings, replying to e-mails, doing interviews and preparing presentations.

It always starts with coffee, because there is nothing better than coffee to start a good day!

I usually arrive at GMI early in the morning. Once I’m here, I read through my e-mails to check if there is something important or urgent that needs to be done, and if there is, I start working on the problem immediately.

My Research Programme Manager told me that sometimes we have to be like firefighters. We need to be able to help a project or a person to move forward no matter what, and we need to find a way to get things done very quickly and efficiently. We always have to be prepared to learn new things quickly along the way, and learn how to take decisions fast during a short period of time, or under a lot of pressure.

I usually prefer to focus on solving one big problem for just a few days, and have lots of small projects and tasks to work on in between.

I try to read good scientific articles as much as possible so that I can to stay up-to-date with the Science field; and I also enjoy reading books, blogs and source code. A professor once told me that I should try to read at least one Nature or Science paper a day as a challenge and although I don’t always manage to achieve this goal, I try to do it as much as possible.

What do you enjoy most about the start-up atmosphere?

I like that it’s a very dynamic environment with lots of things happening simultaneously and people coming and going all the time! Nowadays you can really see and feel how we are growing and maturing as a company and also that there are small improvements everyday around here; I see this especially when there is a new team member joining the GMI crowd.

I believe there is currently a lot of work to be done in here and that we could always use an extra talented hand to help us improve our current methods, processes and challenges. Finding the right person for the job is also a big challenge that we constantly have to confront.

Tell us about your previous work experience?

In 2016, before joining GMI, I was doing software development and consultancy in Bioinformatics for my own company (www.torchmed.com) working for some of the biggest laboratories in Brazil.

Before that, I did a Ph.D. in Bioinformatics for 4 years at the Laboratory of Clinical Genomes in the UFMG School of Medicine in Belo Horizonte, Brazil (2011-2015) under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Sergio Pena where I developed this open-source tool called MendelMD for diagnosing patients with Mendelian Disorders. We managed to analyse ~400 exomes and solve 26 clinical cases during this time.

After finishing my Ph.D., I did a short Post doc in Molecular Medicine (2015-2016) where I worked developing a CNV analysis pipeline for whole exome sequencing data of a group of patients with lung cancer.

What is the best thing about your job?

I’m learning lots of new and interesting things every day! There is no single day that I come to GMI and don’t learn something interesting and useful — usually from someone at GMI.

I like the fact that we have very talented people from very different fields at GMI — typically just a walking distance from our own desks — so we can just go and ask if we have a question or problem to solve.

What is the biggest challenge in your job?

A bioinformatician is a person from very different worlds (Biology, Statistics and Computer Science). I personally enjoy doing the interface between these fields and working with people from a different background.

My two biggest challenges at the moment are: 1) working on the QC pipeline to make sure the quality of our data is excellent and 2) developing a plan for doing an Irish Reference Genome Project.

I’m planning to develop an Irish Reference Genome that would be very important at capturing the variation present among the Irish population.

Also, I would say interviewing and recruiting new talent is another big challenge I’m trying to tackle at the moment.

What advice would you give to someone who may be considering to apply for a job with GMI?

Just do it!

We are an already solid and well established group of very, very talented people from different areas. This is the best environment for career development and growth.

How has your career path developed since joining GMI?

I started doing QC for the first samples we received back September 2016. After that, I did CNV analysis for the glioblastoma samples. The initial results were looking very promising and we kept working on this by developing an annotation pipeline for cancer data and more recently doing structural variation. I did a bit of ancestry analysis.

In the coming weeks, I’m planning to solve the following questions:

Looking at our samples:
How much of our data is good quality?
What is the ancestry of these samples?
Who is the most Irish among the samples we have?

This is what I’m planning to answer in the next month or two.

Thanks to Raony for this candid, stimulating and informative response!

P.S. I’m thinking that with my red hair and freckles I might prove to be an invaluable sample for the project!