Getting to know us: Louisse from Ensembl Outreach

We are back with our Getting to know us blog series! This month, we talked to Louisse from the Outreach team. Find out how she ended up here, what her everyday workday looks like and what she does outside of work.

When did you join and what is your job in Ensembl?

I joined the Ensembl Outreach team in January 2022. Our team takes care of the Ensembl helpdesk, training and general outreach activities. I always see the Outreach team as the middleman between the Ensembl developers and the users.

What is your typical day?

A perfect work day for me would start off with a cup of coffee and sitting down to answer helpdesk questions to make sure our users get answers as quickly as possible. I would then spend my afternoon updating and creating training materials, organising future workshops or reviewing Ensembl documentation. In reality, my days can vary a lot. Sometimes my day could be full of meetings, and other times I could spend the whole day answering helpdesk queries. But that is exactly why I enjoy my job. I like how diverse the workload is! It never gets boring, and I get to work with so many different people across different fields. What I enjoy the most, though, is the travelling and meeting people from different host institutions. Since the pandemic, a lot of the training has moved virtually, but now and again we get to do in-person workshops. I usually prefer those, because you actually get to see people’s reactions which I miss the most when delivering workshops online.

How did you get into bioinformatics?

I first became interested in bioinformatics in the second year of my undergraduate studies. I spent a lot of time on the computer in my childhood and thought it was amazing that you could do biology on the computer. In my very first computational module, we actually learned how to use Ensembl. I worked on a project looking at genes under positive selection in naked mole-rats that year. The following year I worked on a project investigating antibiotic resistance genes in Escherichia coli in the human gut, which I enjoyed so much I decided to continue to work on a similar project for my Bachelor’s thesis. I preferred working with bacteria, as their genomes are nice and small and easy to work with. After graduating, I moved on to studying the plant bacterium Xylella fastidiosa for my postgraduate studies, which was a mixture of wet- and dry-lab experiments. As much as I enjoyed computational work, I never felt ready to leave benchwork behind. I think it is mainly because I enjoyed a diverse workload and did not want to be restricted to a single field.

An image of Louisse on one of her travels. She is sitting on some ornamental stairs in Marmaris, Turkey.

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

How genuinely friendly everyone is in the Ensembl team! From the very first day I joined, I felt welcomed and part of the community. I think the key to Ensembl’s success is teamwork. We all work together because we all want to improve the resource. We discuss things openly, take everyone’s opinion into consideration and listen to each other’s suggestions. And there’s never such a thing as a silly question!

What did you do before joining Ensembl?

I worked as a lab technician in the long-read research and development team at Genomics England before joining EMBL-EBI. Before that, I worked as a compound management and automation scientist at Horizon Discovery. I have always been interested in new technologies. Getting to do Nanopore sequencing at Genomics England and working with automation systems at Horizon Discovery definitely quenched that thirst. But the Outreach position was actually the very first job I applied to after finishing my postgraduate degree. I did not get the job at the time, and when another position opened up months later, I applied straight away. On one hand, I was quite disappointed when I didn’t get the position the first time I applied. But on the other hand, I am glad I got to gain some work experience in other fields, because I feel like I appreciate my job as an Outreach officer so much more. Never give up guys! 💪🏽

What do you do when you are not working?

I keep myself busy by going to Krav Maga and singing classes during the week. I love karaoke, especially around friends, when you can just have fun and no one cares about how you sound. On weekends, I like to do activities with my partner Mark. Sometimes, we would go to London to try out new restaurants or do things like an escape room, go to the theatre or a gig, or visit the museum. For example, next month we are going to Scrapclub, where you get to let all your frustration out by destroying old electronics with a sledgehammer!

When we don’t feel like going out, Mark and I like to get cozy and watch movies on one of the many streaming platforms that we are subscribed to. We also love playing and trying out different board games. The latest we played was Chronicles of Crime, which I highly recommend! I also like to meet up with friends. Usually, we would meet up in a pub or park when it’s nice outside, have a drink and spend our time talking, or sometimes we would have karaoke evenings at home with some nice cocktails. I also like to travel. With the pandemic, I did not get to do this much, but now I do it more often. My family is scattered all around Europe, so when I have an extended weekend, I like to visit them, or do a short trip to a city I haven’t been to.

A picture of Louisse’s family and herself punting on the river
Cam opposite Fellows’ Gardens in Cambridge, UK.