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Project Song Gene update!

In July 2022, Simona Secomandi and I headed to the USA for a few weeks to join one of the leading groups in the field of evolutionary genomics: the vonHoldt group at Princeton University. The visit was as part of the Song Gene project funded by the Research and Innovation Foundation (RIF). I must admit, the trip was long, however, it was worth it! With a warm welcome from Bridgett vonHoldt and her group, I was amazed by how this university combines its historical charm with modern state-of-the-art facilities. It didn’t take long for us to feel like members of the lab! I soon got into my routine, enjoying walking through the university campus in the morning with a cup of coffee on my way to the lab. I would then set up my laptop at my working place and dig into my analyses.

On some days, I would help Steve (Steven Gaughran, postdoc) with some lab work. Fun fact…I learned how to use a pipette! Every single day we would set up an afternoon meeting with Bridgett, where she would give us feedback on our bioinformatics work and discuss about Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS), linkage disequilibrium, neutrality testing, admixture mapping and inference of genetic ancestry using ELAI. We also discussed how to generate recombination maps and implement Shapeit, an application that computes phasing information using the recombination maps and the variants called from resequencing data. The phased information can then be used to infer signatures of selection which can then be combined with GWAS results. Ok enough with this genomic jargon, in other words, we covered a lot of topics and made significant progress in some of our analyses, but it would have been far less fun without Marla’s company!!

Time flew by and this sweet journey came to an end as I then had to fly to Sweden for the ISBE 2022 conference. There I met Alex, who had the pleasure of presenting preliminary results produced during our visit to Princeton. It was an honour for us to meet and work with such a great research group full of dynamic people and inspiring personalities.

Arrivederci Princeton!!

Matteo Sebastianelli

07 September 2022


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