Getting to know us: Shradha from Ensembl Plants

For this month’s Getting to know us series, we talked to Shradha Saraf, a bioinformatician in the Ensembl Plants team. Her advice to her younger self is to follow your dreams! Read more about Shradha and her role in the team below.

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

I joined EMBL-EBI in February 2022. I work as a bioinformatician in the Ensembl Plants team. The main goal of our team is to add new plant genome assemblies, perform comparative analyses on new genes and genomes, and update variation and regulation data in Ensembl Plants.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy everything about my job. I like understanding and solving biological problems with computing power and EMBL-EBI is a great place to do this. Everyday is a learning experience for me. I enjoy the diversity of my work. I am involved in writing scripts, running pipelines for new releases, preparing  presentations and a lot more. Everyone in my team is helpful and encouraging. I also enjoy meeting people from different cultures and I am really impressed by the diversity that we have here at EBI.

What are you currently working on (e.g. any particular projects, datasets, species)?

Currently my work is divided between two important crops: wheat and rice. I am in the process of adding two new wheat cultivars for Ensembl Plants release 57, and I am also working on making variation data available for 10+ Wheat Genomes. Additionally, I am a part of the PanOryza project, an international collaboration that aims to create a rice pan gene set, connecting gene models across the rice pan-genome.

How did you end up here?

I always wished to work in an international environment with a focus on bioinformatics. I was introduced to EMBL-EBI resources during my postgraduate studies, but I was not confident enough to apply for a job position then. My friend asked me to give it a chance anyway, so I applied. I went through interviews and failed to secure a position a few times. Eventually, my dream did come true when I was interviewed for a bioinformatics position in the Ensembl Plants team.

A photograph of Shradha and her family on Jesus Green in Cambridge.

How did you get into bioinformatics?

It was the time during my graduation when my college arranged a two-day workshop in bioinformatics to introduce students to the field. I was fascinated with viewing a protein structure model on the screen and the power of computing in biology. After that workshop, I knew what I wanted to do and began looking for a bioinformatics course to my further studies. Later, I completed a Master’s and PhD degree in bioinformatics. 

If you could meet your younger self five years ago, what advice would you give yourself?

Follow your dreams!

Study, practice, work hard and keep trying. Slowly move towards your goal. Never miss a chance to follow your dreams because “When you really desire something from the heart and soul, all the universe conspires you to achieve it” (Coelho, Paulo)!

A photograph of Shradha and her son.