The Introduction to RNA-seq and Functional Interpretation course (21 – 25 February 2022) is now open for applications and we thought we would introduce you to one of the course trainers, Jonathan Manning.
Jonathan is a Bioinformatician in the Gene Expression group. His role is to expand capacity for single-cell RNA-seq analysis, the Expression Atlas resource, in dialogue with the Human Cell Atlas project. Jon gives us his tips for when looking for scientific training and some inside information on what he would be if he wasn’t a Bioinformatician.
What is your research focus and why did you choose to become a scientist?
My answer here is going to be awkward, in that I don’t have a research focus! Much of my career has been as a ‘service’ Bioinformatician working in various bioscience institutes performing custom analysis for a variety of different experiment types in different biological fields. In my current role at EMBL-EBI I build and maintain RNA-seq pipelines we run the same way over a large number of experiments. In both cases, I use the outputs of other people’s research (tools as well as data) to produce the best results I can for the questions at hand.
I actually started out in Biochemistry due to a fascination with the molecular machinery of life. But I discovered early on that the lab was not for me, and I’ve been on the ‘dry’ side of things ever since.
Where do you see this field heading in the future?
In common with many other fields, machine learning and artificial intelligence will play progressively bigger roles in this field in the coming years, with ‘Big Tech’ companies such as Google having ever greater involvement. I’m sure this will be a double-edged sword, and people such as myself will have to run to keep up, but there’s no denying the potential of these techniques and I foresee some exciting results.
How has training influenced your career?
I’d say my early Bioinformatics training (a Masters by Research and PhD after that) was pretty pivotal for me, setting me on a whole new path. After that my training was more incremental, for example, some introductory RNA-seq analysis similar to that offered at EMBL-EBI, followed up with a lot of self-teaching.
What is your number one tip for people looking for scientific training?
Be focused, choose courses that are related to your immediate objectives, and have clear goals about what you want to get out of the training. If you don’t have ways to immediately apply and expand what you’ve learned then the training quickly fades. I often find it more useful to do training only once I’ve tried to do something myself, so that I know which bits are tricky for me and what questions I need to get answers for.
If you weren’t a scientist, what would you be?
I’d really love to study historical linguistics, an interest I’ve picked a bit late in the day. I also learned to dance a bit over the last several years, maybe I’m a professional dancer in another universe where I started earlier!
Interested in this course? Apply by 12 November 2021
For more upcoming events on cancer research take a look at our event listing.