Dr Ryan Ames


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Job title: Dr
Division: Living Systems Institute
Organisation: University of Exeter
Tags: Fellowship: Innovation Fellowship, LWEC, Manufacturing the future, Researcher, University of Exeter
Related theme: LWEC Manufacturing the future


I am a EPSRC/BBSRC Innovation Fellow. My research uses computational approaches to gather, integrate and analyse biological big data, including working extensively with next-generation sequencing data. A major part of my work uses network approaches to study pathogenicity in yeast in order to identify novel disease-associated pathways. 

Your Fellowship

The world's population is ever-expanding and it is estimated that the global population will reach 9 billion by the year 2050. As a consequence, global food production needs to increase to meet rising demand. So far, we are matching global food demand with more efficient farming techniques, high yield crops and modern pesticides. However, there are a number of significant threats to global food security that include: water crises, political instability, climate change and, the focus of this project, plant pathogens.

Pests and pathogens are one of the greatest threats to food security, with fungi responsible for the loss of more than 125 million tons of crops each year. One particular fungus, the blast fungus, is responsible for significant losses of rice and wheat and is widely regarded as the most important fungal plant pathogen. To protect crops, we need to understand how this pathogen causes disease and identify the key genes that will act as targets for new fungicides that will protect crops and improve global food security.

Recent advances in the collection of biological data mean that we have an abundance of data for the blast fungus. However, we lack the computational tools needed to analyse these data and enable greater understanding of how the fungus causes disease. In my research, I will develop new computational tools to take advantage of the abundance of biological data, understand how the blast fungus causes disease and identify genes that may act as targets for new fungicides.

What motivated you to apply for the Fellowship?

I was transitioning to independence from a post-doctoral role and really wanted to pursue my own programme of research. The Innovation Fellowship has allowed me to establish my own research group, hire an experimental post-doctoral fellow to expand my capabilities and pursue my own research goals. Furthermore, the Innovation Fellowship has allowed me to establish and build on industrial links, which will allow me to pursue translational research avenues. 

How do you think your career can benefit from having the Fellowship?

This fellowship is going to allow me to transition to independence, establish my own group and conduct my own research. This will allow me to answer important questions in the field and impact the scientific community. Outside of the research aspects, the fellowship will also give me invaluable experience of managing people, which will benefit my future career. Finally, the Innovation Fellowship will allow me to establish and build on industrial links that will open up translational research avenues later in my career. 

What advice would you give to someone thinking about applying for an EPSRC fellowship?

I have three pieces of advice: 1. Make effort to align your work to the EPSRC's key themes; 2. Write for a general scientific audience; 3. Think carefully about the impact of your work outside of the scientific community.