Who are you and what's your role?
I'm Dr. Laurence Wilson, Team Leader of the Digital Genome Engineering Team at CSIRO.

What is your research about ?
We use computers to understand how biology works, meaning we know how to improve technology in the future. Hopefully, this means we can save people and the environment from getting sick.

Can you give me a bit more details?
My team focuses on how new genome-engineering technologies like CRISPR-Cas9 can be applied in areas like precision health and biosecurity. These new technologies mean we may be able to one day fix the underlying causes of genetic diseases or come up with creative ways to protect the Australian Environment. By modelling the systems we hope to learn how the techniques can be applied more effectively and have a positive a real world impact.

What drew you to science?
My grandad was a scientist and I was always fascinated by his work. I used to go the CSIRO Double Helix science camps as a kid, so I always know I'd end up in science. Never knew which area though; I tried everything including physics, quantum chemistry, parasitology and immunology before finally landing on using bioinformatics to study genome engineering.

What's your favourite part of science?
The problem solving aspect. I love the moment where the results click and the story becomes clear.

What's your least favourite part of science?
When the results don't click and you're left scratching your head trying to figure out where to go next. It can be hard to keep the motivation up in those moments.

What can you do better than anyone else in the team?
Drink coffee. 3-4 cups on a normal day; 6+ on big days.

What is your favourite blog post from the work of other people in the group?

I love the massive opportunity we have with the OUTBREAK project of ensuring that our current antibiotic drugs continue to work in the future.  

Which recent paper are you most proud of and can you tell us the behind the scenes story for it?

Wilson et al. VARSCOT: variant-aware detection and scoring enables sensitive and personalized off-target detection for CRISPR-Cas9. BMC Biotechnology 2019

This paper is about modelling the effectiveness of the CRISPR-Cas9 system. As well as being a great piece of science, a lot of the work was done by our then summer student Daniel Reti. Since then, Daniel's joined our team full-time and has built significantly upon that initial research. It's been fantastic getting to work with him and seeing the research project grow.

Where can we see you in action?
I contributed to science outreach through Fresh Science.