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I have always been a very enthusiastic and indecisive person. As a result of that, I have always tried to learn as many different things as I could and suffered every time that I had to make a decision. So when I finished high school I was very interested in a bunch of different fields but extremely indecisive about which one to choose. At the end I did my degree in Biotechnology because it was a very broad one which included several of my favourite areas (biology, informatics, engineering…). During those years I had the opportunity of being involved in different laboratories where I really enjoyed working on a variety of topics (synthetic biology, chromatin remodelling, evolution…). After finishing my bachelors I did my Master’s degree on Statistics and then I spent six months in a sequencing company where I could learn about NGS analysis and where I realized that I wanted to do an academic career. By then I already knew that I wanted to work in evolution, so I started to look for positions and when I found the position at the Ettema lab, I totally fell in love with the research that they were doing and the people in the lab. And that is how I ended up here, in Uppsala.
Biology in any of its branches is really cool, and evolution makes sense of biology. So Evolution is AWESOME. And not just because it is, but also because it involves a lot of different fields, as biochemistry, ecology, cell biology, virology, bioinformatics… and combine them in the same story.
Being more specific, we are focused on early evolution, which is a fascinating but very incomplete field. One of the problems when studying molecular evolution is the lack of data which makes it very hard to resolve phylogenies and it also creates artefacts. For years scientists have prioritised studying human-related organisms and, therefore, have excluded the vast majority of the microbial world, biasing our view of the extant biodiversity. Our group is trying to fill that gap by doing genomic exploration of microbial dark matter. We use cultivation-independent approaches to get a wider and more realistic perspective of the true diversity, and the new data is used in phylogenomics analysis to gain insight into the evolutionary relationships among those new genomes. These newly identified organisms might have a big impact on our understanding of the deeper branches of the tree of life giving us new hints about the emergence of the eukaryotic cell. Awesome, right?
Wu, X., Tronholm, A.,Fernández Cáceres, E., Tovar-Corona, J.M., Chen, L., Urrutia, A.O., Hurst, L.D. (2013) Evidence for deep phylogenetic conservation of exonic splice-related contraints: splice-related skews at exonic ends in the brown alga Ectocarpus are common and resemble those seen in humans. Genome Biology and Evolution 5 1731-1745.