Viruses are the most abundant biological entity on Earth and infect all domains of life. They have been shown to be a driving force of several important processes in many ecosystems, such as nutrient cycling and bacterial diversity modulation in the oceans. Metagenomic approaches have recently enabled an unprecedented understanding of the viral diversity and the interactions between micro-organisms in many ecosystems.
I became fascinated by the role and diversity of viruses in ecosystems while working as a master’s student in Dr. Wilhelm’s lab at the university of Tennessee. So, when I joined Dr. Hurwitz lab as a postdoctoral fellow, I was excited to work on developing bioinformatics tools and methods for the identification of novel viral sequences from environmental metagenomes. My current work aims to improve current computational methods by combining cutting-edge approaches, such as machine learning and natural language processing techniques with more traditional bioinformatics algorithms. One of the hurdles that currently impairs the study of viruses in their ecosystems is the difficulty to recover full-length virus genome sequences from natural populations. Recently, the new single-molecule long-read sequencing technologies (such as Oxford nanopore) has provided an unprecedented opportunity to recover entire viral genomes from a single viral particle. With that in mind, I was really excited by the opportunity the Postdoctoral Research Training Grant (PRTG) provides for postdocs to acquire new skills. I am extremely grateful of the PRTG to support my training in sample preparation and sequencing of viral genomes using nanopore technology, that I hope to complete this fall under the supervision of experts in this novel technique.
While much of my research focuses on new computational approaches to unravel the role and interplay of viruses and microbes in their environment, I am also passionate about the development of tools and methods to help researchers share and interconnect the product of their research to ensure long-term availability and reproducibility. In the Hurwitz lab, I was involved in the development of a web-platform called Planet Microbe (https://planetmicrobe.org), for the integration of marine metagenomics datasets in their broader environmental context. Since February 2020, I joined the first Data Science fellow cohort at University of Arizona Data Science institute. As a fellow, I am given the opportunity to be part of an exciting cohort of postdocs that share a common passion for data science but has a very diverse background. This has brought a lot of great discussions and exchanges that certainly pushed me to discover new technologies and analytical methods to enrich my research projects.
Each month we'll feature a Postdoctoral Scholar and their research, sharing their experiences from the UA, life in Arizona and their research interests.