Conor Walker - PhD student in the Goldman Group
Q&A with Conor Walker
“It’s a really cool environment to be in, at the heart of the data science community.”
Conor Walker is a final year PhD student in the Goldman Group. He shares why he chose to study at EMBL-EBI.
Q: Why did you choose to do your PhD at EMBL-EBI?
EMBL as a whole is a great organisation because it has an incredibly multicultural environment, and I was excited to work in a heavily European scientific community. Specifically, I was interested in the European Bioinformatics Institute because of the purely computational nature of the research.
I was studying bioinformatics for my Masters, and EMBL-EBI is one of leading bioinformatics institutes in the world. As part of my bioinformatics programme, and before that, I was interacting with the data resources and tools at the EBI all the time. I thought it would be a really cool environment to be in, at the heart of the data science community for the ever-increasing amount of biological data.
Whilst I was studying biology, I didn’t yet fully appreciate how a lot of this data was generated and managed. As my work transitioned into being entirely computational, I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to work and learn at the institute which not only manages this data, but also applies and develops many novel computational methods to increase our understanding of biology.
Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to apply for a PhD at EMBL-EBI?
Based on my experience, the main things would be to relax during the interview process itself and in terms of preparation, really understand and be able to explain any projects you have done previously. I was asked a lot about my Bachelors and Masters thesis work and a lot of the interview hinged on me being able to explain that.
Group leaders want to see that you’ve understood what you’ve done and why you’ve done it, not just for you to say ‘I did it because I was told to’. They want to see that you have some initiative, that you’re a bit creative with your ideas and that you understanding what you’re doing and why. You’re not expected to know everything or wow them with your knowledge on an entire field!