I am a researcher and lecturer in evolutionary genomics and bioinformatics, currently affiliated at the Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity at the University of Münster, Germany, where I have been working on the evolution of complex traits, mainly eusociality, since 2016.
I am fascinated by the multiple independent origins of eusociality across animals, e.g. ants, bees, wasps, termites, ambrosia beetles and even within mammals, the naked mole-rats. Despite such divergent origins, these transitions from solitary to colony living organisms have produced similar complex phenotypes, e.g. a division of reproductive labour and often extreme longevity among the reproductive individuals. My main goal is to find the fundamental molecular signatures of eusociality, by comparatively analysing genomes and transcriptomes within and among all evolutionary origins. I am addressing this goal with a combination of comparative genomics, transcriptomics and machine learning techniques. Eventually, I aim to discover key genomic signatures of healthy ageing in eusocial animals that are applicable to ageing research in humans.
I grew up in Derby, in the East Midlands, UK, where I did my GCSEs at Sinfin Community School and A-levels in Chemistry, German and Maths at Wilmorton College. At the age of 19, I moved to Wuppertal in Germany, to first improve my German and then study Economics and Business Management - Wirtschaftswissenschaften. With this degree I worked as a strategic media consultant for MediaCom in Düsseldorf for 7 years. At MediaCom I was in charge of consulting for several brands for a large international company, while supervising several junior consultants.
At the age of 33 while visiting the natural history museum in London, I had an epiphany - it was there I realised, I should be working in biology. I went back to university and began my academic career in biology, first a BSc in Düsseldorf (2007-2010), followed by an MSc in Bochum (2010-2012). I then returned to the Midlands to pursue a PhD in evolutionary biology at the University of Leicester with Rob Hammond and Eamonn Mallon, investigating the effects of ploidy on selection. It is during this period that I developed my love and fascination for evolutionary biology, while developing important bioinformatics skills, such as R and Perl (later Python), as well as analytical experience in molecular evolution, population genomics and transcriptomics.