Life At Genomics England

Meet some of our colleagues to find out more about us and what brought them here.

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  • Neil Samuels

    Junior Service Manager

  • Nathan Hicks

    Technical Product Specialist and Infrastructure Programme Delivery Manager

  • Srikanth Narayan

    Technology Delivery Manager

  • Vivienne Parry

    Head of Engagement

  • Dr Tom Fowler

    Deputy Chief Scientist, Director of Public Health, Caldicott Guardian

  • Olivia Niblock

    Clinical Interpretation Analyst/PanelApp Curator

  • Dr Simon Thompson

    Data Wrangler

Neil Samuels

Junior Service Manager

I have been at Genomics England since 2016, first starting as a member of the Service Desk team, and now moving to the wider Service Delivery team as Junior Service Manager.

Where I came from

The journey started in my mid-teens. I studied Engineering and, as part of my studies, I was required to spend time out in the ‘field’ to gain work experience. I spent that time working at a local hospital in the Biomedical Department. There, I was able to test defibrillators, ECG machines and visit Intensive Care, operating theatres and generally look after the medical equipment. I enjoyed every moment, and it had a major impact on me, so much so that I wanted to continue working in the NHS somewhere and help people.

Thus, I took the next logical step… I decided to pursue a career in banking. In particular, IT.

It was a change in direction but little did I know, my life would lead me back to helping people as I did all those years ago. However, during this period of my life I worked for various companies in the financial sector and then for a few years for a software company, after which I joined Genomics England.

What brought me here

Like so many of us who work for Genomics England, I have seen family, friends and relatives pass away due to cancer and rare disease. This, of course, is very painful, as you can feel helpless at times when you want to make things better for those who are in need.

When the opportunity came up to work for Genomics England, I didn’t look back; it is comforting to know that as a company we are all doing something really important to bring benefits to patients now, and are providing the answers to long outstanding medical questions. It brings it home when I get the opportunity to speak to participants who really want members of their family or themselves to get the best medical treatment, and just get better. So, after all these years I finally took the ‘logical next step’ – I’m once again helping people in such an important way.

Highlights

I have been here for nearly 3 years now and it has been a fantastic journey. I have seen many changes during this time. What stands out is that I work with people from different backgrounds, from many teams, and all of us are doing something important each day. But I have found that it doesn’t matter what we are working on, it doesn’t matter where we’ve come from, or what position we are currently in, we ALL have the same goal, and this unity shows when we work together on a day-to-day basis.

I personally have had the opportunity to work in the Service Desk team where I have been able to be part of many projects. But one of the highlights of this role is being able to actually speak to our participants. We have been able to make a difference helping our participants locate their results and listen to their concerns when we can. By being able to speak to our participants, it helps me to see that we are really helping families.

My journey continues at Genomics England, but now I’m starting a new chapter. I will be working on improving our working processes. Specifically, I will manage any recurring problems and assist in transferring new services for the Service Desk team. I look forward to the changes and the challenges ahead for our team and for Genomics England.

About me

I like cycling. I had the opportunity to complete a stage from the Tour de France route a few years ago, which was a great experience.

Spending time with family is important, and I love helping people. I have been able to volunteer at various times, and this brings much joy. I also like looking at the stars and planets on a dark night, and once a year I even brew red wine and beer.

Nathan Hicks

Technical Product Specialist and Infrastructure Programme Delivery Manager

I lead a team of Technical Project Managers that manage infrastructure work across Genomics England, both aligned to specific business led projects and supporting core infrastructure services. I also perform the role of technical product specialist and technical project manager, combining business analyst, technical writing, quality management and project management skills to help the engineers and architects to understand what they need to build. I work closely with service management and the Platforms Operations team to triage and manage resolution of live service incidents and service requests.

Life at Genomics England

I joined the project in August 2014 as a Software Development Manager, with the initial remit to build a software development team and develop data capture tools. I’ve performed a number of roles across projects in the course of my career here – stepping in where there is a need to fulfil a particular role, across business areas. The work has been varied and inspirational; the people talented, committed and a pleasure to work with.

What brought me here

This Project is transforming healthcare by embedding the use of whole genome sequencing (WGS) within the NHS. Treatments will be better targeted to the specific needs of individuals and through research new insights into the data will drive new treatments. I could not pass up the opportunity to get involved.

Highlights

I am particularly proud of building a team and getting the minimum viable product for data capture by health professionals out of the door in March 2015, and then leading the team through 18 successful software releases in 12 months. Another personal highlight in 2016 was unveiling the Research Environment to the initial three GeCIP academic research domains for neurology, colorectal cancer and machine learning. My involvement in Platforms Engineering since 2017 has allowed me a fresh new perspective on the Project, to understand the underpinning infrastructure across the Project and the essential enabling role that this plays in the success of the work across all business areas.

About me

I was lucky enough to grow up in the beautiful city of Bath. I studied Literae Humaniores at Oxford, a combination of ancient (Greek and Roman) literature, ancient history and philosophy, followed by a masters in IT, before becoming a consultant for a global management consultancy firm. This role exposed me to a number of roles across the software development lifecycle, with a focus on quality in software engineering and across a number of sectors. I then joined the Forensic Science Service in a hands-on development and team management role on the DNA Database.

Prior to joining Genomics England I managed all software development on the National DNA Database, leading teams of project managers, application developers, test specialists and application support specialists, as well as rolling up my sleeves to develop software hands on at the Forensic Science Service and latterly the Home Office. The move to Genomics England provided me the opportunity to move from criminal justice to the health service on an equally inspirational initiative – with the opportunity to bring my existing skills and experience and to learn a great deal in terms of technology and business sector.

Family time is very important to me. I am a FIFA-qualified football coach and have managed a team of junior players from Under 8s through to Under 13s. This season we narrowly missed out on promotion to the first division in our league and made a cup final! I love to travel and with family in Canada and Sweden I have good reason to do so. I enjoy cooking (and eating!)

Future plans

Excited to support the transition from a project to a service and help establish the use of WGS technology routinely within the health service. In doing so, I am keen to help refine and improve our working practices.

Advice

For people coming into this field, I’d say that you need to plan to iterate – to explore and be open to different approaches and technologies but plan how to detect that an approach is not working and move on quickly.

Srikanth Narayan

Technology Delivery Manager

I work as a Delivery Manager at Genomics England. My primary focus is to ensure that researchers can access research environment data without a glitch. This helps facilitates new insights into research data, which means better patient care.

Life at Genomics England

No two days are same at Genomics England, one day we are dealing with 100,000 Genomes Project sampling and another we are facilitating COVID-19 samples between various research and pharma institutes. There is no time to get bored with the amount of technology and life sciences research going on. I also get to work with some of the smartest people in the industry, who I can learn from.

What brought me here

NHS has always been close to my heart and whilst I was working for them, Genomics England approached me for a Technology lead role, and I was overwhelmed by the opportunity. I got to support the amazing 100,000 Genomes Project.

Highlights

Learning, sharing and making an impact every day are the key highlights for me at Genomics England. I get to learn new things in terms of technology, latest research aspects on Cancer, Rare disease and COVID-19. All of us at Genomics England are extremely passionate about what we do and take pride in the way we do it.

About me

I was born and raised in the IT capital of India; Bangalore. I have always loved the outdoors and am an avid horse enthusiast who finds time as much as he can to be with horses. I also teach yoga at Genomics England, which enables me to meet a lot of new people and establish connections.

Future plans

Precision medicine is the future of patient care. As we progress further into genomic medicine, precision medication and surgeries will enable patients to deal with their ailment much better and faster, without compromising on other aspects.  I am passionate about patient care and life sciences and hope to continue my journey on this path.

Vivienne Parry

Head of Engagement

I work part-time for the Project and my role is to work with the participants and the public, to understand their concerns, and to earn and retain their trust in these new technologies and their implications. A particularly important aspect has been setting up the Participant Panel to ensure that we are involving the participants in what we do and how we roll out our service and that we learn from their wisdom and experience. What I do at Genomics England with wider policy dovetails with work I do elsewhere in science – for instance, my role on the board of UK Research & Innovation Council and of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

Life at Genomics England

I started with Genomics England when we were just five people working out of an old lab as, right from the start, public engagement was seen to be key to our success. I work with our splendid and much admired Communications team.

Highlights

The best part of this job is talking to the participants who are just wonderful – thoughtful, practical, insightful, clever and hilarious to be with. I do many talks and debates, and always love the questions, especially from kids. And I like bringing together the many different strands of my life in order to help deliver the vision of genomics.

What brought me here

DNA was what drew me into science, and I reported on the Human Genome Project. But of all the extraordinary scientific advances I have been privileged to report on, the 100,000 Genomes Project is the most exciting because by the time we complete, it will have put us on the road to a completely new type of healthcare, enabled by genomics.

About me

My background is as a science writer and broadcaster. I did Genetics for my degree. I loved the science but was hopeless in the lab and broke so much equipment that I was banned from doing practicals. I then ran a medical research charity, working with the Princess of Wales, who was its patron, for over a decade. But people and communicating science was always what I loved best, and somehow I fell into TV, becoming the presenter of the BBC’s iconic science show, Tomorrow’s World. I have also made hundreds of programmes for Radio 4 on health and science, including 4 series of Inside the Ethics Committee. I’ve always been a bit of a scribbler and have been a columnist for The Times, the Guardian and the News of the World; an agony aunt for Good Housekeeping; and have published several books. I still make films and do a huge amount of facilitation and hosting of major science events across the world. I have a thing for healthcare scientists and have worked with CSO Sue Hill for many years, promoting their many talents (the NHS’s 60,000 healthcare scientists include bioinformaticians and people working in genetics labs).

Despite travelling so much, I am a fanatical gardener, growing many varieties of flowers and vegetables in our garden in the Cotswolds. I also love cooking and make a lot of cakes and jam.

Dr Tom Fowler

Deputy Chief Scientist, Director of Public Health, Caldicott Guardian

I have operational responsibility for the Genomics England interface with the NHS – in this capacity I work to support the science stream around rare diseases, infectious diseases and cancer.

In particular, I have led the rare disease pilot phase of the 100,000 Genomes Project. I also coordinate the Project’s infectious disease strand, which is led primarily by Public Health England.

About Me

I have a PhD in Behavioural Genetics from Cardiff University focusing on child and adolescent psychopathology and continued to a research position studying drug and alcohol use in adolescence. This sparked my interest in public health and I then moved to train as a public health consultant.

In my previous role I was a locum consultant epidemiologist in the West Midlands investigating infectious disease outbreaks, with a strong interest in the applications of Whole Genome Sequencing.

Prior to that I was based with the Chief Medical Officer of England, Dame Sally Davies, and I was editor of her first two annual reports on the state of Public Health. In my public health life I have worked at local, regional and national level in a wide range of areas from specialised commissioning to a placement with the National Behavioural Economics Unit (at the time based in the Cabinet Office).

Despite being service-based in my public health career, I have retained a strong interest in research and continued to publish service base issues (see ResearchGate).


Olivia Niblock

Clinical Interpretation Analyst/PanelApp Curator

I am lucky enough to work in two different teams within the Bioinformatics department at Genomics England. In my role as a Clinical Interpretation Analyst, I perform quality control checks on the sequenced genomes returned to Genomics England by our Clinical Interpretation Partners, whereas in my role as a Curator, I create and review virtual gene panels for the diseases in the project – genes which will go on to annotate participants’ genomes.

Life at Genomics England

I have been in my role for over two years and one thing I noticed immediately is the diversity of specialities that are brought together here – from clinicians and bioinformaticians to lawyers and ethicists. The work is ever changing but above all it’s rewarding.

One of the best things about working here is the willingness of colleagues to help you learn new skills and share their knowledge with you. I have learnt so much from my colleagues and am very grateful for the opportunity to expand my knowledge of different subjects.

About Me

I came to Genomics England as a Medical Genetics graduate, having worked previously for a mental health charity, and originally worked in the Service Delivery department before moving to the bioinformatics department on the completion of my masters in Genomic Medicine.

I became interested in genetics from a young age after my cousin died from juvenile Huntington’s disease aged 5. I wanted to be part of bringing genomic technologies into the NHS and help in any way possible to alleviate the suffering of other people and families blighted by genetic disorders.

Dr Simon Thompson

Data Wrangler

Genomics England gets clinical data of lots of different types from lots of different sources. I am part of a team that takes in all these different sources of data, and amalgamates them into a more cohesive dataset for use by the various researchers accessing the deidentified 100,000 Genomes Project dataset.

Day to day I look at lots of data, write computer programs to reshape that data, and do some basic analysis of the data’s quality and suitability. There is lots of creative problem-solving and discussion with colleagues about what the end product should look like, and how to get there.

Life at Genomics England

I’m quite new to this role but worked at Genomics England for a couple of years previously in the GeCIP Team. Over that time I’ve really seen the company grow and the project progress. It might sound a little trite, but it is a real honour to be part of such an important cutting-edge project. To work with people of all different backgrounds, but all very good at what they do, makes every day a school day.

In my postdoc I routinely had to explain to potential research participants that the results of our research wouldn’t benefit them, and might not even benefit their grandchildren; after a while it was a bit dispiriting. With the 100,000 Genomes Project the benefits to the participants are more clear, and even the research findings are being fast-tracked into patient care. The project feels like it is paving the way for how healthcare and research can operate in a world that expects immediacy.

Working at Genomics England can be pretty hectic, but this means that there is real license to shape what you do and how you do it. I’ve always been encouraged to take ownership of a piece of work which has allowed me to learn new skills and develop new talents that I might not have got if my role was a bit more structured.

About Me

I come from an academic background. After a PhD I went to America for a postdoc that involved leading long field trips in a number of countries across Africa. After five incredible years, I moved back to London but a postdoc I’d set up beforehand fell through. A little disillusioned with the fragility of an academic career, I started to work managing a number of separate research projects. I saw the Genomics England advert and I knew I had to go for it, and was lucky enough to get it.

I grew up in Wales but have spent most of my professional life in various bits of London. I’m a cycling fanatic in that I love riding bikes but also love watching the professionals race. Several years ago I cycled from Cambridge to Kenya and although I’ve done other similar cycle tours in the past (and would like to do more), for now I’m restricted to the odd weekend away and the daily commute into work.

Future Plans and Advice

I came to computer programming late in my career and always regret taking the easy way out and not forcing myself to learn during my PhD. I think being able to program and use a computer efficiently is relevant to the vast majority of jobs, and it’s certainly something I would encourage others to consider if they’re not already.


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