In AMSI scholarship recipient

Macsue Jacques

Victoria University

I am a PhD student at Victoria University, and my research project is in the field of integrative OMICs and exercise. I am a biologist by training, but during my PhD I have started to work with R for analyses of OMICs data and decided to transition to the bioinformatics field. During my PhD I have worked in several different projects in our group which resulted in over 12 publications so far (four as first author). For my future career I aim to be proficient in both the wet lab and as well as a bioinformatician in the areas of genetics, epigenetics and health.

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

Our genes are highly regulated by what we call epigenetics. Epigenetics simply means on top of our genes and is highly modulated by environmental factors. What I mean is daily choices such as if you exercise or not, if you eat healthy or not, if you smoke or not, all can alter your epigenome which in turn will affect your genome. My research is investigating how exercise brings about epigenetic changes and how those changes affect response to exercise.

How did you get into the mathematical sciences/bioinformatics?

My interest for the field of bioinformatics was brought to life by one of my supervisors Sarah Voisin. How she works with R and made coding so accessible to learn has created a new passion and shift in my future career not to be only a wet lab based researcher but also a proficient bioinformatician that knows how to work with the most diverse types of data.

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

I would have enrolled myself in some courses focused on learning computer languages and statistics. That would have helped a lot on the career I am currently pursuing. Advice I would give is never give up, the rewards are worth it.

What was your motivation for attending AMSI BioInfoSummer?

My main motivation was to broaden my knowledge in bioinformatics and advance my coding skills.

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

I am a PhD student under a scholarship, which limits my ability to pay and participate in many conferences. By receiving this scholarship, it made it possible for me to attend the conference without the additional financial stress and it made it easier for me to learn on the diverse topics the conference covered. Thank you for this opportunity. I am looking forward to attending future events by AMSI.

What was your main take away from AMSI BioInfoSummer?

My main take home message is no matter the field you’re working with you can always grow and expand your horizons to become a multidisciplinary scientist.

If a peer asked you if they should attend AMSI BioInfoSummer, how would you describe the conference to them?

Yes, for sure! You will learn so much not only in the areas that you are interested but in others as well. Lectures were extremely high quality.

BioInfoSummer was held as a virtual event for the first time in 2020. What was the biggest positive from your point of view of holding it in this format and/or the biggest challenge?

The positive point was that it allowed for flexibility in attending, the biggest challenge was to make connections.

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

I see myself as a well-qualified bioinformatician, working in many OMICs areas at once, and perhaps having my own lab.

2020 has been a very unusual and challenging year. What is one thing you have learnt about yourself this year? Or a new skill you have developed?

I’ve learned how important friends are even at distance. Also learned that working with bioinformatics you can make your job very flexible and work can happen from anywhere you are.