Umberto Perron - PhD student in the Goldman Group

Umberto Perron - Goldman Group alumnus

Q&A with Umberto Perron

"The application experience is not influenced by which university you come from."

Umberto Perron is an EMBL-EBI alumnus. He recently finished his PhD degree 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?

I had a friend in my Bachelor and Masters courses, a year ahead of me, who studied at EMBL. He was researching PhD programme options and he came across the EMBL programme, he went ahead and applied and now he is finishing his PhD in Heidelberg. He told me about the programme and said, “If you want to do bioinformatics, or any sort of computational biology, EBI is probably the best place in Europe to do it.” So I applied for the programme!

If you come from a small university, or this is your first experience studying abroad, it might seem intimidating applying for a PhD, especially when a lot of the time you just have to email  a professor at a university and hope that they read it. When applying to EBI, the process is much easier and more friendly, it’s very supportive.

My project is coming up with an evolutionary model which includes protein structural information, as well as sequence information. We’ve just submitted that and now I’m trying to make the model more flexible and a bit more real-world proof.

Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to apply for a PhD at EMBL-EBI?

You don’t have to come up with a master plan, but it helps to have a general idea of the area you want to work on. I had an idea that I was going to work on something related to evolution, at the time I thought more in terms of comparative genetics or transcriptomics, but I ended up working at the very theoretical end of the scale.

It also helps to have at least one good practical research experience, like an internship during your Masters or your Bachelor. It’s beneficial to have worked on a project where you were perhaps told what to do, but that you carried out on your own.

The application is a very fair process, you are given the chance to present yourself and your experience and the overall experience is not influenced by which university you come from or which groups you have worked in. It’s very reassuring when you’re going into the application process.

I stressed out a lot when I was applying, trying to figure out exactly what the Group Leaders were looking for and trying to spin my CV to focus on that. I probably put too much energy into that, when actually that’s not what it’s about! There is so much flexibility, for example, Group Leaders could propose a project but you might end up not working on that at all. Most Group Leaders want to find something that fits with what the group is doing but that also fits with your background.

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