Getting to know us: Sarah, non-vertebrate genomics team leader

In the November edition of our Getting to know us blog series, we introduce Sarah Dyer who joined the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) in May 2021 leading the non-vertebrate genomics team.

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

I joined EMBL-EBI to lead the Non-vertebrate Genomics Team in May 2021. My team looks after Ensembl’s Outreach activities, including training and user support, plus developing Ensembl Plants and Metazoa (invertebrates) resources. We also contribute to international projects such as WormBase and VEuPathDB

Portrait of Sarah Dyer.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy working with great people here at EMBL-EBI, where people from all over the world, with a range of different backgrounds, work together to develop resources to support user communities and open science.

How did you end up here?

Following a molecular biology degree and PhD in bioinformatics, I actually joined the Ensembl project which at that time only covered vertebrates. Whilst I hugely enjoyed my time in the genome annotation team, I wanted to work with plants, so I took a postdoc position working on wheat domestication at the University of Manchester, before moving to CIAT to provide bioinformatics support for their cassava, rice and bean breeding programs. I then led the Crop Genomics and Diversity group at what is now the Earlham Institute, before moving to NIAB where my research group was mainly working to understand the genetic diversity of cassava and common bean in collaboration with CIAT’s genetic resources team. When the opportunity arose to return to Ensembl to lead the efforts centred on plants and insects, I couldn’t resist.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your way of working?

I was working remotely when the pandemic started, and in general remote interactions and hybrid meetings were much more difficult back then. When lockdown started and most people had to adapt to working remotely, we made huge progress working as virtual teams which really improved the quality of my day-to-day working experience. Now daily virtual/hybrid team stand-ups are a great way to keep everyone connected, and I travel a lot less than I used to, which saves time and is better for the planet too.

What do you do when you are not working?

During the pandemic I took a photography course online and my favourite subjects are insects. The picture below shows a privet hawk-moth from my back garden. It is the largest moth species in the UK.

Photograph of a Sphinx ligustri (privet hawk-moth).