Jenni Westoby joined our Bioinformatics Team eight months ago and is really enjoying being part of the team.

Find out more about her first few months with us.

1. Tell us about your background

My undergraduate degree was in Natural Sciences, specialising in Genetics. I really enjoyed the courses in genomics and the mathematical biology course in my first year, so I decided to move into bioinformatics for my PhD. My PhD was initially focussed on studying alternative splicing using single-cell RNA-seq data, but as the PhD progressed it became clear that the real question was whether it was even possible to study alternative splicing using single-cell RNA-seq! A major problem with single-cell RNA-seq is the huge amount of technical noise. One of the main conclusions from my PhD was that single-cell RNA-seq has the potential to answer a lot of basic biological questions, but first we need to get better at distinguishing between biological signal and technical noise.

One of the highlights of my PhD was the opportunity to do a three month internship at a Cambridge biotech startup. Within days of starting my internship, I realised that I really enjoyed working in a team to solve problems. It was very different to working in isolation as I did throughout my PhD, and I found it a lot more fulfilling. It was also really exciting to be working on projects with the potential to have a direct impact on patients.

2. What attracted you to Inivata? 

Having a job that I believe in and that has the potential to make the world a better place is very important to me. Liquid biopsies have the potential to transform the lives of lung cancer patients, so this is a very exciting area to be working in. On top of that, the interview process was very positive and I was really excited about the projects I would be working on.

3. You’ve been working at Inivata for eight months now, can you tell us how your time here has been so far, and what a ‘normal’ day looks like for you? 

I’ve really enjoyed my time at Inivata so far. Every day is different, and I’ve had the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects and learn lots of new skills. The best thing about working at Inivata is the people. I had a really warm welcome when I arrived and Inivata is a super friendly place to work.

COVID-19 means that my working routine has changed a lot! Before lockdown, a ‘normal’ day started with a drive to the office and a morning coffee and catch-up with my colleagues. Sometimes there would be morning meetings after the coffee, or I would settle down at my desk to write some code. The team sometimes has lunch together, which is a great way to get to know the people you work with. Then there would be more coding and meetings in the afternoon.

My lockdown routine looks a little different – now my day starts with a run or a home workout, followed by a coffee at my desk during my morning catch-up meeting with the rest of the Pipeline team. The rest of the day is a mixture of focussed work, zoom calls and conversations on Microsoft Teams. I was concerned about becoming isolated from my colleagues before lockdown began, but it’s been surprisingly easy to stay connected. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in the office again when things become a bit more normal.

4. Do you have any top tips for someone looking to work in Industry? 

I think there are a lot of misconceptions amongst academics about working in industry. A common concern is that a move into industry will mean working on boring projects with no say in how they should be run. This couldn’t be less true! Because I am no longer working alone, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a much larger range of projects than I could have tackled by myself. In industry, you can get the chance to work with incredibly talented people on projects that are more ambitious than could usually be tackled in an academic lab. So, if you’re on the fence about applying for an industry job, I’d say go for it! Moving into industry has been one of the best decisions I have made.

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