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Biological SciencesUndergraduate study

Helping in the discovery of new drugs

Biochemistry graduate Emily Halford helped staff and students make the most of new computer software to track gene sequences in the laboratory.

Emily Halford

As part of a volunteering project in conjunction with the School of Biological Sciences, Emily worked with Dr Rich Edwards on a six-week summer assignment in the field of bioinformatics.

Speeding up results analysis

Bioinformatics involves the creation and advancement of databases, algorithms, computational and statistical techniques to solve complex problems in the biological sciences. The project’s aim was to examine how the new Taverna bioinformatics programmes can be best used to create workflows to speed up the analysis of experimental results. This valuable new tool could aid University molecular biology researchers who are attempting to discover new drugs.

“My investigations into how you can get the most out of the software proved very useful to researchers and students here at the School of Biological Sciences,” Emily says. “They can use Taverna to work with large collections of data on projects such as gene sequencing.”

Exceeding expectations

Dr Edwards was pleased with the project’s outcome. He comments: “Emily achieved a great deal with this project; she exceeded my expectations. Computers are now used extensively in the biological sciences and this software enables anyone using Windows to interpret large amounts of data such as DNA sequences. At the end of the project, Emily presented her findings to staff so we could learn more about Taverna’s potential and she did this in a very professional manner.”

A future in immunology

Emily chose to study at Southampton, after taking A levels in Biology, Chemistry and History, partly because her brother was already there studying computing. “I thought it was a lovely campus, not too far from the town and was impressed by the Open Day. Southampton is not too far from home in Epsom in Surrey as well.”

Emily has gone on to take a Masters degree in Immunology at the University of Nottingham after completing the project. “I studied some modules in this subject as undergraduate level and thought it very interesting,” she says. “It covers allergies and viruses which are very relevant to everyday life. My dissertation explored the interaction of proteins in the virus that causes chicken pox so I have already covered some of the basics.”

Emily Halford was sponsored by the Research Management Team, School of Biological Sciences.

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Emily achieved a great deal with this project.... At the end, she presented her findings to staff so we could learn more about Taverna’s potential.

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