This is a podcast from the Nuffield Department of Medicine (NDM). We've asked Yang Li from Canada, why he decided to do a DPhil project in the Nuffield Department of Medicine. He also talks about his research and his experience living in Oxford.
So I come from a mathematics and computer science background. So I mainly work in data analysis. That is how to use a large data set in order to answer specific biology questions. And right now I am working on De novo genome assembly, which is part of how you sequence, a species. So, in order to sequence the species, there are two major steps. The first step is an experimental step where you take the cell of an organism and then you extract the DNA of the cells and then you're going to multiply, make copies of the DNA and chop the DNA up into very small fragments. Once you get these fragments, you give them to a computational biologist and he will basically take these small fragments and then try to assemble these fragments back into a long continuous DNA segment, and that's going to be essentially the genome of your species.
What I do daily is basically invent new algorithms and find a strategy in order to help this process. And I guess at the end of the day, what we want to accomplish by doing this, is by sequencing more and more species, we would like to be able to answer a specific question about our own genome which is a human genome, and to be able to tell what part of the genome does what.
My life in Oxford has been very good so far. And I think what's nice about studying Oxford is apart from being in a lab, you also belong to the department, but also to a college. And it's very nice to be in a college because you get the events, you get dinners, and you get to meet a lot of different people who care about very different things. And what's nice about talking to all these different people is that you get to know what they're interested in, and why they are fascinated by what they study. And I have the feeling that in some sense, apart from being able to grow as a researcher when you study at Oxford, you're also able to grow as a person who can interact with all these different people.
So to someone considering applying to the NDM prize, I would say, first of all, read the literature. If you're interested in a particular research project, just go on PubMed, and really search through and read a lot of reviews and read everything concerning it. And then the second step would be trying to contact a supervisor, and talk to him or her about this, and obviously after reading all these things, you're going to be able to see what the interesting projects there are.