Category Archives: personal

Hiatus, indefinite

May. No blog posts yet in 2016. “What’s going on Neil?” asked no-one at all. For anyone who may be wondering…

Last November, I resigned from my position with my previous employer after almost 7 years. Just before Christmas, I was offered a position as a data scientist with Life Letters, a Sydney-based healthcare technology start-up. I started working there in early January and so far, it has been a terrific experience. Had I known how enjoyable it could be, I would have made a move like this 10 years ago. Career advice: there are many more jobs that can engage scientists and utilise their skills than academic research.

So what does that mean for this blog? It means that I’m no longer a researcher, at least in the narrow sense that science would use that word. It means that the things I learn during a working day are unlikely to translate into blog posts of broader interest (confidentiality issues not withstanding). And quite frankly, given where I’m at in my life (balancing working for a startup with raising my family), it means that I no longer have time to write regular blog posts.

Like a band that never officially breaks up, I’m not ready to declare the end just yet. So I’m placing the blog “on hiatus”, indefinitely. I’ll still be active online, which right now mostly means Twitter.

Better living through informatics: in search of koalas

In 2015, I’d like to write, think and do more about things that I care about. One of those things happens to be the koala. Now, this being a blog about bioinformatics and computational biology, I can’t just start writing about any old thing that takes my fancy…I guess. So in this post I’m going to stretch the definition to include ecological informatics and tell you the story of how I achieved a long-held ambition using one of my favourite online resources, The Atlas of Living Australia. And then we’ll wrap up with a quick survey of the (sorry) state of marsupial genomics.
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This blog in 2013

In something of an end-of-year tradition, WordPress provides users with an effort-free blog post in the form of an annual report. Here is mine.

My ambitious plan at the start of 2013 was to aim for 4 posts a month. I managed 28 and I’m happy with that; about one every two weeks.

Looking forward to a new year of blogging. All the best to you and yours for 2014.

Using the Ensembl Variant Effect Predictor with your 23andme data

I subscribe to the Ensembl blog and found, in my feed reader this morning, a post which linked to the Variant Effect Predictor (VEP). The original blog post, strangely, has disappeared.

Not to worry: so, the VEP takes genotyping data in one of several formats, compares it with the Ensembl variation + core databases and returns a summary of how the variants affect transcripts and regulatory regions. My first thought – can I apply this to my own 23andme data?

Read the rest…

23 and me – yes, me – part 2

Sample journey and arrival


Spitting across the Pacific

My tube of spit arrived at the lab on May 19. Six days door-to-door via Guangzhou, Anchorage and Memphis to LA.


23andMe raw data menu

On arrival, a confirmatory email: “The spit sample you recently submitted to 23andMe for the person listed above has been received by the laboratory and is now pending analysis; the process usually takes 6-8 weeks. You will receive another email notification from us as soon as the data for this sample are ready to be accessed through your 23andMe account.”

In the meantime, there’s plenty to explore at the 23andMe website. Anyone can create a demo account, which allows you to explore anonymous sample data to get a feel for what you’ll see when your own sample is processed. Naturally, I’m most excited by the options to browse and download raw data. You can also participate in around 20 health and genetics surveys which are a good way to kill time, although not many of them provide instant personal gratification.

Next update – some time in July.

23 and me – yes, me – part 1

Until recently, I was not even aware that there is a DNA day. Nor can I tell you exactly when and where I noticed that 23andMe, the personal genomics company, launched a sale to celebrate the day – I imagine it flashed by on Twitter or FriendFeed. I can tell you that like many others I decided that finally, I could justify the expense, signed up (with around 15 minutes to spare – thanks to the 17 hour Sydney/California time difference) and I’m now waiting for sample arrival and processing.

I thought it might be interesting to blog the experience and provided that I don’t discover anything disturbing, I’ll share some of my data here. Related posts will be tagged with “23andme” and here is part 1 which covers sign-up, delivery, sample collection and return.
Read the rest…

Temporary blogging hiatus

I’m now immersed in the process of moving from Brisbane to Sydney (with no new accommodation as yet), in preparation for my new role at CSIRO starting March 2.

Consequently, it will be quiet here for at least a couple of weeks. I’ll be sending the occasional tweet and the odd item to FriendFeed, but nothing substantial until home internet is up and running again.