What is your role in the DIPLOMICS network?
I am the program manager, which means that I am responsible for delivering on the objectives of the program, writing the business plans and annual reports to the DSI (our funder) and managing the budget. But, because we are such a small team, I do a bit of everything!
What do you enjoy most about your work?
There are two main aspects of the work that I truly enjoy. First, I am a scientist by training, and I worked as a research scientist in academic, government and private institutions for many years, initially in the US (where I am from), but also when I first arrived in South Africa in 2006. Having been on the “funder” side for 11-12 years though, I was missing the inquiry and discovery of hands-on scientific research. Running DIPLOMICS, however, has brought me very close to that role while I continue to be an enabler. Second, I relish the relative agility and responsiveness by which we operate, which is refreshing after working for a large government funding agency where the wheels turn slower than glaciers. I also like that we can see the benefits of our efforts rather quickly. Linking these two aspects, I have an enviable opportunity to see our field from multiple perspectives, a bird’s eye perspective, really, above the common compartmentalization of specialties and domains.
Why is the Omics industry so important in South Africa?
The emergence of the Coronavirus pandemic is a stark example of why Omics is a vital enabling technology for each of the major response steps to the viral threat. For example, we use qPCR for detecting the presence of the virus in patients, next-generation-sequencing for surveillance of outbreaks, microarrays for susceptibility testing, mass spectrometry for profiling patient response and correlating prognosis with disease severity, and bioinformatics for analysis of all of this data. But the Omics industry and its technologies go well beyond the coronavirus outbreak; it is just as important, for example, in agricultural biotechnology, biodiversity conservation, precision medicine, drug development, just to name a few. I like to call Omics an enabling technology since it isn’t domain specific.
Use an adjective that best describes yourself.
If I have to pick only one, it is “Enquiring”.
What are your favourite past times?
I have many favorite pastimes, but the top three tend to be: cycling in the high mountains of France, photo- and video-graphy, and enjoying what Cape Town has to offer with my family (which includes our dogs).
Describe someone who is an inspiration in your life, and why.
This is a difficult question to answer because I don’t embrace the notion of heroes or celebrities. I am inspired by the selfless who perform acts of generosity and kindness, often anonymously or in obscurity. So, I can’t think of anyone at the moment!
Tell us what your favorite quote or mantra is.
Another question that is difficult to answer. I see many quotes that catch my attention or inspire me and it often depends on my current situation which ones those are. A quote that comes to mind that seems to be timeless is: “In 20 years, you will be more disappointed by what you didn’t do than by what you did”, by Mark Twain. That is, go out there and do things and don’t regret it, or something to that effect!