In AMSI scholarship recipient
AMSI grant recipient profile: Alexander Stuart

Alexander Stuart

 The University of Adelaide

I am a first year PhD student from the University of Adelaide. My project will investigate the role of L1 and L2 retrotransposons in the gene and genome evolution of therian mammals and monotremes respectively and is a direct continuation of work I began as an honours student in 2021., and gene regulatory networks modelling.

Can you give me a quick overview of the type of mathematics you are studying and its potential applications or outcomes?

Retrotransposons, by their very nature, are agents of genomic change. Their proliferation is known to affect the genome in a wide variety of ways, altering gene expression and genome structure. My project is investigating the role of two major groups of retrotransposons, L1s and L2s, in the gene and genome evolution of therian mammals and monotremes respectively.

How did you get into the mathematical sciences/bioinformatics?

I actually only took a single bioinformatics class during my undergrad but was able to complete a purely bioinformatics-based honors project with my current supervisor in 2020. I believe that the most interesting questions in genetics and evolutionary biology can only be answered through the use of bioinformatics – this is what drove me towards the field.

What advice would you give to your younger self or others wanting to studying the mathematical sciences?

While it would have been nice to begin my training in bioinformatics earlier on in my undergraduate degree, I don’t believe this has majorly impacted my current trajectory – my advice is that a student from a purely biology background can absolutely make the transition into bioinformatics!

What was your motivation for attending AMSI BioInfoSummer?

Past members of my lab had recommended BioInfoSummer to me, and it seemed like something I would be interested in. I would definitely recommend it to future applicants, I found the various talks and workshops over the course of the
conference to be very interesting.

You received an AMSI BioInfoSummer travel grant to attend AMSI BioInfoSummer. How important was this in terms of your ability to attend and fully participate in the sessions throughout the week?

Staying at the University College made attending the conference very easy – I was able to attend the entire conference. I think I got a lot out of this conference, and I am very grateful to have received this travel grant.

What was your main take away from AMSI BioInfoSummer?

I particularly enjoyed being able to see the type of bioinformatics work being performed by researchers at Australian institutions outside of Adelaide.

Where do you want the mathematical sciences to take you? Where do you see yourself in five- or ten-years’ time?

This is a big question… For the moment I’d like to focus on making it through my PhD but being able to apply my skills in bioinformatics to new and interesting research topics is really what I want to achieve in the near(ish) future.