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Together we will find a cure Donate


Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer

Two Minutes With... Gabriel Rosser – Researcher in bioinformatics

by Elise O'Kelly
Two minutes with... Gabriel Rosser - Researcher in bioinformatics
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?

I start most days with a mug of tea, or - even better - a full thermos. I'm definitely an early morning person - everything is so peaceful at 5am and I find it easy to concentrate. It wouldn't be the same without the tea, though.

If you could do another job, what would it be?

I sometimes envy people who get to work outside in natural surroundings, so perhaps a gardener or groundskeeper. Can I switch back to computational genomics when it gets cold, dark and rainy in November, though?!

What makes you happy?

The thought that what I do at work could help to make a positive difference. I find that such an important daily motivation. My research is all carried out on a computer and related to results from our laboratory, so it's many steps away from a treatment. Nevertheless, studies like ours into the fundamental mechanisms behind brain tumours are absolutely vital to pave the way to better diagnoses or a more effective drug. Outside of work, my wife and I love to play an epic board game with our friends (nachos and beer accompaniments are obligatory).
What do you want to achieve in this field (main ambition)?

I think that on a basic level, we all want our research to have an impact, by furthering scientific knowledge and adding an important piece to the mysterious puzzle we're all working on! My own research is focused on the amazing amount of data generated by lab experiments on patient samples. It often becomes apparent that there are hundreds of people looking at similar data and asking similar questions. That's where I would especially like to help - by creating a piece of software or some data that will not only further our own research project, but also research in so many other important areas.

What is your favourite hat?

For sheer versatility, you can't beat a buff - it's really just a tube of fabric but it's ideal for walking, wearing under a cycle helmet, or impersonating a pirate. I got given a free one years ago after completing a marathon and I wear it all the time now.
Who inspires you?

I find teachers inspirational - they do such an important and tricky job. My wife is a teacher (as was my mother before she retired). From time to time a student sends a thank you card that reminds us what a hugely positive impact teaching is having on their life. I wish I was thoughtful enough to do that back when I was at school!
What is your favourite memory?

I've been very lucky: there are so many happy memories to choose from! One that stands out is from our honeymoon trip last summer. On a warm night in Summerland, Canada we decided to go for a swim in Okanagan Lake. We were the only people for as far as we could see, and the moon was sparkling on the surface of the water.
What has been your biggest challenge?
When I first started my DPhil (PhD) at Oxford, I was given an amazing opportunity to try several short projects in different labs. At that point, I had a degree in chemistry and fairly limited knowledge of maths and computing. Despite that, I realised that I wanted more than anything to pursue my research in mathematical biology - and thanks to some wonderfully supportive supervisors I was given the opportunity. The transition was worthwhile, but very tough at the time. At first, weeks would go by where I had done nothing but read textbooks in the vague hope that something might help me with my planned research. Most of it didn't, of course, but it taught me to be more pragmatic.

Why did you choose your profession?

I had an inauspicious introduction to research: my final year chemistry project was predominantly about mixing different coloured powders together with a pestle and mortar and checking vacuum lines for leaks. I loathed the project by the end - the results were underwhelming to say the least - but I had enjoyed the research process immensely! It has been an unusual journey from there to my current job, but the fundamental excitement of making a discovery, no matter how small, has always been there. Now, I hope that those discoveries will be a step towards combating brain tumours.