In AMSI scholarship recipient
AMSI grant recipient profile: Roberta Davidson

Roberta Davidson

The University of Adelaide

I obtained a Bachelor of Applied Biology (Genetics) from The University of Adelaide in 2019. I then started a PhD in human paleogenomics where I use ancient DNA to study the population genomics of pre-colonial South America. My interests are human history and expanding methods to understand migration history and human mobility through time and space.

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

My research aims to investigate past demographic events that occurred before colonisation in South America. This is done by sequencing genomes from human remains and applying computational methods to the data that can tell us things like how closely related individuals and groups are to one another, and at what time in history a migration may have happened and where.

How did you get into the mathematical sciences/bioinformatics?

I somewhat accidentally ended up in bioinformatics through my PhD. Originally, I intended to do a combined wet-lab and bioinformatics PhD but various complications meant that I didn’t get to do as much wet-lab work, but a lot more bioinformatics than expected. This turned out to be a great thing because I learned so much and found out I really like bioinformatics.

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

You will never be able to know everything in the field, but instead, focus on getting really good at learning quickly, collaborating with people who have complementary skills and problem solving.

What was your motivation for attending AMSI BioInfoSummer?

I attended BioInfoSummer because I’d never had any formal training in bioinformatics and had barely been exposed to the different sub-fields, other than what I’d done so far in my PhD. For me, BioInfoSummer was a great way to get a quick and informative overview of all the fields that are part of bioinformatics, and to understand how they interrelate and are applied.

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?

Receiving the AMSI travel grant was a great help in supporting me to travel to the conference, I wouldn’t have been able to make it otherwise.

What was your main take away from AMSI BioInfoSummer?

The main takeaway for me was a broad overview, so I now am equipped with knowledge of other areas, and in the future I would be able to understand what type of research could answer a research question and reach out to people in that field and collaborate with.

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

The beauty of bioinformatics is that it is new and constantly expanding, so I have no real idea where I’d be in ten years but I am confident it will be cool.