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“What next after academia? From bench to bioinformatics…”

Speaker Profiles

AKEN_BronwenBronwen Aken is team leader of the Ensembl Genebuild Team at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Following her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry, Microbiology and Biotechnology from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, Bronwen moved away from the wet lab and completed an MSc in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology before moving to the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. She has almost eight years experience in automatic annotation of vertebrate genome assemblies.

“This is an exciting field to work in because we facilitate research on an increasing number of model organisms and species found at interesting positions on the phylogenetic tree. Every annotation project brings its individual challenges, and added to this the data we use is evolving due to the advances in next-generation sequencing techniques. This means that we are constantly assessing and adapting our pipelines to best suit the data that we work with, and to improve the information we provide to researchers worldwide.”


Fiona Nielsen never planned to end up in biotech or in research. She started her career in computer science which she studied at a business school in Copenhagen, but soon felt the need to move on to something with a broader impact. To expand her knowledge and skills she decided to take a degree in Bioinformatics at the University of Southern Denmark. From there Fiona went on to study for a Bioinformatics PhD in the Netherlands, and from there moved on to a job in the field of Next-Generation Sequencing as a bioinformatics scientist for illumina in Cambridge, UK.

“Bioinformatics research is a very rewarding field for technical minded people like me. You have every opportunity to apply your technical skills and you can see the impact and the immediate benefit you deliver for your lab and colleagues as well as for the research community.”

Fiona is currently CEO for, a not-for-profit organisation which aims to promote and enable the sharing of genetic data for the advancement of genomics research.

gspudichGiulietta M. Spudich is project leader of the Ensembl Outreach Team.  Ensembl, a joint project between EMBL-EBI and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, is a free, open-source scientific resource that integrates high-quality genomic data and displays it in a publicly accessible web browser.  Giulietta moved from a post-doc at the MRC-LMB with John Kendrick-Jones to manage a small team responsible for coordinating and delivering training courses, maintaining the helpdesk (user support) and developing help and documentation for users (FAQs, Videos).

“I like the challenge that working in genomics and bioinformatics provides, along with the personal reward of supporting research by helping others access genomic information that will help their work.  The deep knowledge of science (albeit a different field), presentation skills, and teaching experiences I had during graduate school and my post-doc contribute to my exciting professional role today.”

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