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Using big data computational approaches to analyse genomes of diverse species

Topic: Lab News

Sex, Genes and Behaviour; Bath academics return from successful meeting in Mexico

📥  Lab News, Uncategorized



Bath academics returned from Mexico after taking part on the "Sex, Genes and Behaviour" meeting jointly organised by the Department of Biology and Biochemistry and the Centre of Genomic Sciences at the National University of Mexico (CCG-UNAM) and held in the city of Cuernavaca on the 23rd and 24th of August 2016.

With over a 100 students and academics from a number of Universities in Central Mexico, speakers Prof. Robert Kelsh, Dr Nicholas Priest, Prof. Tamas Szekely and Dr Araxi Urrutia and their Mexico based counterparts Dr Diego Cortez, Dr Constantino Macias, Dr Norberto Martinez, Dr Horacio Merchant, Dr Martin Serrano and Dr Alejandra Vazquez examined the evolution of sex and behaviour from different angles. Talks on the first day focused on the molecular mechanisms for the evolution of sex differentiation and sex determination whereas talks on the second day focused on sexual selection and behaviour.

The meeting was organised by Dr Diego Cortez (CCG-UNAM),  Prof. Tamas Szekely (Bath) and Dr Araxi Urrutia (Bath), with funding from an International Research Accelerator Scheme grant from the University of Bath with additional funding and support from the  CCG-UNAM, The Mexican Academy of Science.

In his opening words, Dr David Romero, Director of the CCG-UNAM praised the efforts of both institutions to build long term links. This is the third joint meeting organised by both institutions.




Understanding the genomic basis of complexity

📥  Lab News

We are delighted that our results showing the central role of alternative splicing as a predictor of organism complexity has been published in the journal of Molecular Biology and Evolution. This was fantastic news and rewards the titanic efforts of all of the students involved in this work over the last four years to analyse over a 100 genomes.


In the paper we present the first clear evidence yet for a strong association between alternative splicing and organism complexity measured as number of distinct cell types across the eukaryotic tree of life.


Alternative splicing is a process during gene expression which allows a single gene to generate more than one type of protein. This process is immensely important and has been shown to ply a key role in development and many other processes. However, comparative analyses on the prevalence of alternative splicing and its relationship with complexity had proven inconclusive because of a strong bias in the detection of alternative splicing due to differences in transcript coverage.


After overcoming this bias we show that not only alternative splicing is a strong predictor of complexity but that in fact, alternative splicing is the best predictor of complexity when compared against all other gene features previously associated with complexity.


Whether the observed link is causal, though, remains a mystery as it is possible that higher splicing is simply a marker of complexity rather than its cause.


Fig. 3.



University of Bath delegation visit to Mexico: Great experience!

📥  Lab News

I had the great honour of taking part on the University of Bath delegation to Mexico two weeks ago. This was a great experience for me and had the chance to meet great colleagues at Bath as well as visiting some of the top Research and Higher education venues in Mexico. Caroline Baylon who lead the delegation did a great job organising very interesting meetings at each institution we visited.

I am grateful to the Dean of the Faculty of Science for trusting me with this visit and to Emma Perry who took care of logistics of my travel.

During my one week visit I had the chance to visit and or meet with academics and directives from several of the most important Institutes and Centres in the life sciences at the National University in Mexico including:

Instituto de Ciencias Biomedicas

Instituto de Ecologia

Instituto de Biologia

Centro de Ciencias Genomicas

I also had the chance to visit the wonderful facilities of the National Institute for Genomic Medicine, INMEGEN with Director Xavier Soberon giving us a tour around the research labs.

Together we identified a lot of potential common interests for collaborations which I have shared with my Department to be followed on.

On the day before last we visited the campus at Mexico City for the Tecnologico de Monterrey, we were made to feel very welcome there and there are many plans for student exchange which Caroline and her team are negotiating.


Genomic bases of mammalian encephalisation; paper published on Proc B

📥  Lab News

Atahualpa and Jimena worked hard on this paper and it is great news that it has now been published in the printed version of Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

This project was done in collaboration with Dr Humberto Gutierrez who is the corresponding author of the study.

Here is the link for the open access version of the paper:

Castillo_et al 2014


All the popgroup47@bath organisers had the time of our life welcoming all attendants

📥  Lab News

We all had an intense few months organising the popgroup47@bath meeting. It was a real rollercoaster with ups and downs.but the top level of the science from attendants, poster presenters and speakers definitely made all the effort worth it.

We wish to thank the support from the Chairman of the Council of Bath, all the staff at the Assembly Rooms and the Roman Baths for dressing both beautiful venues. We also wish to thank Searcy's for the great food and drinks we had. The Fisher memorial trust hosted a wonderful drinks reception to close the fantastic plenary by Prof. William G. Hill. The Production People delivered great AV support for the meeting in the face of difficult acoustics at the Assembly Rooms.

We wish to thank all the journals, the Royal Society and Source Bioscience for sponsoring the meeting.  Above all we thank the support from the Genetics Society who was this meeting's major sponsor.

University of Bath including the finance office, the Pro VC for research, the Dean of the Faculty of Science and the Head of Department of Biology and Biochemistry.

Finally, as chairs of this year's meeting we wish to thank the support of all of our colleagues and student volunteers who worked really hard so that the meeting could run smoothly and had to endure long spells sitting at the help desk and the cloakroom. Special thanks go to Atahualpa who worked for weeks (months!) on the organising of the conference.

Here are some pictures of the "behind the scenes" and other group pictures we took of ourselves =).


These are the pretty bags which only arrived the day before the start of the meeting!


Badges given...


Bags distributed...

2014-01-07-3020Who said registration desks are boring...

2014-01-07-3021Everything went well after a manic morning getting the bags ready...




2014-01-07-3012Hard to believe how difficult it is to get a couple hundred badges in alphabetical order!



Just pretending to be helping out for the picture

2014-01-07-3066Relaxing in the evening...



2014-01-08-3074Chairs in action on the following day...

2014-01-10-3703Steve had to step in to chair a session in the "little room"...

2014-01-10-3700Last picture with Jaime who was the main photographer of the meeting. Jaime has now finished his PhD so possibly our last picture together =(...

2014-01-08-3341Some past and current Bath students...

2014-01-09-3362Also Bath PhD students


There were some quiet times to take pictures...

2014-01-09-3363But there were lots of busy times too...

2014-01-09-3373Jimena was one of the photographers on the meeting as taking pictures is a hobby when she is not running scripts.


Professional service at the conference banquet!


More speeches from the chairs to thank all those who made the conference possible and had patience with all of our mistakes...


Special thanks to Atahualpa who worked so hard for weeks dealing with the conference organisation!

2014-01-09-3591A chance for a lab picture in the infamous cloakroom!


A larger assembly...


Co-chairs and most student helpers squeezed in the cloakroom for a group picture.

2014-01-09-3594Yes, lets have another go!

2014-01-09-3587(1)That place had strange effects on some...


Pop Group was great success!

📥  Lab News

The popgroup meeting started on the 7th of January at the Bath Assembly Rooms. All of us organisers were thrilled to see the meeting being such a huge success thanks to all the attendants, poster presenters and talks as well as the support from sponsors.