Research week 4: Back to work

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Hi everyone! It has been a while since my last blog post, I hope everyone is enjoying their research and summer 😊 I opted to take a two-week vacation in the middle of my research to re-orientate myself for the last few weeks (which I don’t want to end ☹)

So, last week I went back to troubleshooting my BLAST results and I have learned about the existence of so many bioinformatics tools that I never knew existed. My supervisor suggested before I took my holidays to research the evolution and lineage of the MHC class II beta gene in amphibians to assess whether the results obtained during my BLAST were due to software error (which often is the case) or due to a possible convergent evolution scenario, simply put, where different species can evolve the same traits completely independently.

Working with other members of my lab group, since I am new to the whole realm of bioinformatics, I have been using MAFFT (Multiple Sequence Alignment Program) to create a phylogenetic tree of the MHC class II beta gene from humans, wallabies, all the way to my dearest amphibians to assess its evolution in amphibian species. I also used the software to assess the similarities and differences of the complete gene between the different species, which is essentially the nuts and bolts of conducting a sequence alignment in genetics!  

This week, I will use the info I have collected to come up with a reasonable explanation for my results and hopefully move on manipulating my amphibian data to ascertain resistance level to chytridiomycosis! It has been great studying a topic that I am genuinely passionate about and I hope everyone else has had that same feeling! Every day the number of google searches I make for “best frogs to have as pets” increases.

Enjoy the rest of the summer (safely of course) while we still can! Soon it will be time to return to college, fingers crossed in person 😊

Jessica Mahon

Human Genetics undergraduate student , Trinity College Dublin

Hi, I'm Jessica Mahon, and I am interested in genetics, both from a conservation and a human standpoint. I'm in 3rd year of Human Genetics at Trinity College Dublin. I'm from Ireland and speak both English and Irish. I spend my spare time taking part in yoga, meditating and enjoying the outdoors. 

My Laidlaw research project is based on the genetic susceptibility of amphibians to chytridiomycosis disease to find a new conservation method for susceptible amphibian species. I'd love to chat with others who are interested in genetics and science!