Getting to know us: Denye from Genebuild

This month we are meeting Denye Ogeh who works in the Ensembl Genebuild team.

What is your job in Ensembl?

I work as a Software Developer in the Vertebrate Annotation team. The Vertebrate Annotation team is divided into two – the Ensembl Genebuild team and the Ensembl Compara team.

The Ensembl Genebuild team, which I am part of, focuses on generating evidence-based gene annotations to identify the location, structure and expression of genes.

The Ensembl Compara team provides resources that link diverse species at the DNA and gene level, including gene families, gene orthologues, whole genome multi-species alignments and conserved genomic regions across many species.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy programming and database development. To see the final results from programmatically addressing complex biological questions is always a beauty for me. Here in the Ensembl team, programming and database development define my job.

What are you currently working on?

I have just worked for a couple of months in the Ensembl team, however a fundamental issue relates to finding a system of uniquely assigning stable identifier spaces for current and new assemblies during gene annotation. At the moment, I am working on solving this problem. The idea is that in future, the process of assigning stable identifier spaces during gene annotation is fully automated.

What is your typical day?

My typical day starts with reading my emails and the latest news. Then I review my work plan for the week. If there are any urgent emails to attend to, I will reply to them before picking up from where I left off the day before. My break time is usually spent having lunch and catching up with recent happenings around the world.

How did you end up here?

Prior to starting my job at EMBL-EBI, I had completed my first degree in Computer Science abroad and worked for a few years as a Software Developer and Technical Instructor.

At some point, I met a friend who had trained for a PhD in Bioinformatics in Germany. He spoke a lot about his research in developing bioinformatics algorithms to predict target sites for drugs against malaria in silico. He also highlighted how relevant this field of science was, gaining prominence all over the world. At the time, the concept of Bioinformatics was relatively new in Nigeria, and it still is.

Being the kind of person who wanted to be at the forefront of technological advancement, coupled with my interest in exploring new areas, I enrolled for a MSc course in Bioinformatics at the University of Leicester, UK. It was during this period that I attended the EMBL-EBI Open Day event for the first time. At the Open Day, I got a clearer picture of how Computer Science was playing a key role in solving biological problems. After completing my MSc course, I continued to study for a PhD in Bioinformatics.

Just at the point of completing my PhD, a position for a Bioinformatician in the Ensembl Genebuild team came up. I applied and was offered the job.

What surprised you most about Ensembl when you started working here?

In addition to the experience of just visiting the Wellcome Genome Campus I had a couple of years back, the experience of working here has been fascinating. Starting to work in a very diversified and multi-lingual environment, where everyone is ready and willing to help you settle in, is the coolest thing to find. The Ensembl team is a large team with specialists in every area. I am indeed learning a lot from my interactions with team members and non-team members.

What is the coolest tool or data type in Ensembl that you think everybody should know about?

I think the Ensembl API is a very robust tool to interact with. In the few scenarios where I have used it, it has made it possible to program and get complex tasks done in minimal time.