July 18, 2019, by Lexi Earl
Meet the Beacon: Dr Christopher Moore
Dr Chris Moore is a geneticist and the Future Food Beacon technologist. He is based in Deep Seq, where he performs DNA sequencing and provides genomics support for Future Food researchers. Chris helps researchers to plan their sequencing projects, carries out the lab work and transfers data to bioinformaticians, such as Dr Michael Wilson, for downstream analysis. Previously, Chris was a Research Fellow in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Nottingham.
In this interview, Chris talks to Lexi Earl about his research, working in Deep Seq, and his work as a technologist.
Tell me a little about yourself and your research
I did my PhD at Nottingham, which focused on the genetics of muscular dystrophy and the evolution of the genes involved. Since then I have had a number of different postdoc positions, all involving molecular and developmental genetics. Most recently I was working on a multidisciplinary project investigating the potential for using predatory bacteria as an alternative to antibiotics. This involved investigating host-bacteria and bacteria-bacteria interactions in a zebrafish model system through microbiology, microscopy and RNA-seq as well as working closely with a mathematical modeler.
What are you going to be doing now?
I have got quite a diverse set of projects coming up. Currently I am working on sequencing a range of crop and livestock genomes, identifying organisms involved in cocoa fermentation and identifying bacteria in soil and how they affect nutrient uptake. I have also been putting together a portable field sequencing kit, which will allow researchers to perform DNA sequencing outside of the lab environment. It was a really challenging brief to fulfil, but it is incredibly satisfying now it has come together. The kit is initially going to be used to sequence samples from Colombian cocoa farms and then will be available to other Future Food research projects.
How did you become interested in genetics?
I was interested in biology and wildlife from an early age and always used to be peering into ponds or hunting under logs for amphibians, reptiles and minibeasts. However, it was in the first year of my degree that I really became fascinated by genetics and I realised that that was what I wanted to do. From then onwards I was hooked and my interest has increased with each project I have worked on. We are currently in a really exciting time for genetics, with great leaps forward in technologies leading to exciting discoveries, but also presenting new challenges. So it is a great time to be a geneticist.
What was the appeal of joining the FFB?
It was a great opportunity to be involved in a diverse range of exciting research projects, all of which have important real-world applications. I am used to being part of one or two projects in a lab, so being involved in so many is pretty amazing. Working within Deep Seq also gives me a chance to use a lot of cutting-edge technologies, such as long-read DNA sequencing, robotic automation, optical genome mapping, single cell RNA sequencing and linked-read DNA sequencing.
What is it like working in Deep Seq?
Deep Seq is a really great environment in which to work, with a lot of experience and knowledge in the lab. We are constantly busy with lots of diverse projects going on at any one time, which means that no two days are ever the same. Assoc Prof Matt Loose (the Director of Deep Seq) has an infectious enthusiasm and it is hard to not get excited by the work we are doing.
Tell me about being a technologist. What does that entail?
My role is to facilitate researchers’ genomics projects, from discussing their needs and drawing up quotes to carrying out the lab work and providing them with data. It can involve a lot of problem solving. I deal with lots of different types of samples from different sources, which means there is not a “one size fits all” approach when it comes to analysis. My role is also about getting the most out of the equipment and facilities we have to give researchers the best possible data for their projects.
How do you explain your research to ordinary people?
The production of any of the food that we eat involves at least one living organism and in most cases many organisms contribute. These organisms are influenced by their genetic make up, so by understanding the genetics of these organisms and how their genes affect them we can better understand food production and how to improve it. That is where my work fits in. My role is to find ways to extract and decode this genetic information so that it is in a form that researchers can use.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in becoming scientists?
Do something what interests you and excites you: that’s what keeps you going in science. When working in science things won’t always go right, but if you’re excited by the subject, the results, or the process then it is much easier to overcome these challenges.
Do you have a greatest career moment?
I don’t think I have a single greatest career moment. There is work that I am proud of and papers that I put a lot of work into, but I think it is the combination of all the small discoveries and achievements that makes a career.
What are your long-term plans?
I would like to continue working in the field of genomics for the foreseeable future. I’ve always been interested in method development, so I would quite like to eventually move in that direction either in academia or commercially.
Photographs courtesy of Dr Christopher Moore, Dr David Gopaulchan, and Lisa Gilligan-Lee