Getting to know us: Mag from Core

This month we’re getting to know Mag, who is the Ensembl Core Senior Project Leader. Read on to find out more about her career path and what she gets up to in her day-to-day role!


What is your job in Ensembl?

I am the Ensembl Core senior project leader. The Core team is responsible for the tools and infrastructure used throughout the project. We work on new projects to deal with the latest data types while ensuring we do not break the existing API. Additionally, I am the central information hub between project leaders to manage interdependencies between the various teams’ coding efforts.


What do you enjoy about your job?

The amount and diversity of the data we deal with are growing every day, stretching our current environment and working practices to the breaking point. It is an incredible opportunity to explore how all the latest technology trends can help us solve new problems and maintain tried solutions.


What are you currently working on?

Last year, the manual annotation effort (HAVANA) officially joined the Ensembl banner at the EBI. While their data and use cases are similar to those of the Genebuild team, they have their own tools and software, built on top of the Ensembl ones. I am heavily involved in identifying all those areas of overlap to provide a common solution that works for both automated and manual gene annotation.


What is your typical day?

I start the day by checking my calendar and what meetings are already scheduled. Meetings range from planning specific projects with the teams and developers involved as well as general updates from various team members. Once I have identified the available time between meetings, I scheduled either quick periods of replying to queries or more dedicated time on project planning.


How did you end up here?

I loved biology during high school, so I started a biology degree in an engineering school. I got a bit bored of the repetitive aspect of learning 20 pages by heart every week but enjoyed the logical nature of mathematics and computer science much more, ending in me re-training in an IT degree. That is when I discovered bioinformatics, combining my two favourite subjects in one. At the end of my degree, I applied for a position in the Genebuild team and nine years later I am still in Ensembl.


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

The dedication and involvement from everyone in the project is always incredible. We all have our personal lives and different work patterns, but when there is a problem with the release, we drop the rest and make sure it gets solved without disrupting our users.


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

If you’ve ever had to mangle a file because it had special characters, or the chromosome names were not in the right format, then the FileChameleon is for you. It can be used from the Ensembl interface to customise download of Ensembl files but it is even more powerful as a standalone script. You can run it on any local file to replace the manual modifications you needed to get it to work with your favourite software. Moving forward, we would like to expand the options available to create ‘analysis-ready’ files to download, so do contact us to let us know about your use cases.