James Cook University, Townsville Campus
Ronal is from the beautiful Fiji Islands. Here, he had been actively involved in marine science research and teaching at the University of the South Pacific which is located on the main island of Fiji. Ronal was offered a HDR scholarship at James Cook University in 2021 where he is currently working to employ innovative bioinformatic tools and genome wide data in order to investigate the evolutionary history of scleractinian corals and establish models to predict their adaptation to environmental climate change in the contemporary context. It is envisaged that this research will serve to inform management and conservation efforts and allow for a better understanding of past and present holobiont response in ever-changing climates. He is supervised by Prof. David Miller, Dr. Ira Cooke. and Assoc Prof. Mia Hoogenboom. Ronal strives to make a formidable contribution to knowledge in this area in order to facilitate coral reef restoration and rehabilitation efforts.
Can you give me a quick overview of the type of mathematics you are studying and its potential applications or outcomes
I am using innovative bioinformatic tools and genome wide data in order to investigate the evolutionary history of scleractinian corals and establish models to predict their adaptation to environmental climate change in the contemporary context. It is envisaged that this research will serve to inform management and conservation efforts and allows for a better understanding of past and present holobiont response in ever-changing climates.
How did you get into bioinformatics?
I was introduced to bioinformatics by my research supervisors and it was therein where I discovered the incredible power and functionality of bioinformatics and its ability to handle and decipher immensely important information contained within large genomic datasets.
What advice would you give to your younger self or others wanting to studying the mathematical sciences?
I would advise anyone wanting to explore bioinformatics to obtain a strong foundation in programming and coding beforehand as this would facilitate an amiable transition into the subject.
What was your motivation for attending AMSI BioInfoSummer?
My AMSI BioInfoSummer experience was immensely favourable. I was given the opportunity to interact with peers in a purpose-driven learning-oriented environment. I left the conference with useful knowledge pertaining to my research interests and a foundation upon which to build upon. I would highly recommend the AMSI BioInfoSummer conference to peers involved in mathematics or bioinformatics research.
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?
This was very important in facilitating my attendance as I am currently an international student. The fact that I was able to attend this important conference via a scholarship was vastly beneficial and assisted me greatly. The scholarship was amazing and included catering which was all the more endearing.
What was your main take away from AMSI BioInfoSummer?
I would say the information that I acquired regarding frontier research using bioinformatics tools and the operational aspects involved in the use of these tools. The speakers were all well-chosen, and their areas of research were very interesting and thought provoking. The peer-oriented environment was all the more engaging and facilitated an ambience of learning.
Where do you want the mathematical sciences to take you? Where do you see yourself in five or ten years’ time?
The careers talk held during the conference was very inspiring and useful. I envisage myself working in genetics research using bioinformatics on an advanced level and developing or helping develop bioinformatics tools. The careers talk provided very useful information regarding the development of bioinformatics as a career.
Any other comments you would like to provide on the Scholarship or AMSI BioInfoSummer?
All in all, I found the conference to be vastly beneficial and relevant to the area of my research interest. It served to inspire and nurture further thoughts related to the application of Bioinformatics in my research, and the pathways which could be explored to expand the scope of my area of research.