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Marisa Loach

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Professional biography

I am currently researching single cell transcriptomics in health and disease as a first-year PhD student at the Open University. I graduated with a BA in Biological Sciences from the University of Oxford in 2005 and have since then studied a variety of courses through the Open University and Harvard Extension School. I have also worked as a freelance writer for over a decade.

Research interests

My research project involves analysing public data in Galaxy to identify differences between healthy and diseased cells.

Vast amounts of data are available for analysis, including bulk datasets that tell us which RNAs were being produced in the tissue as a whole and single cell datasets that reveal the RNAs being produced by individual cells within the tissue. I will be using both types of data to look for differences in the RNAs being expressed in cells affected by different diseases. I am particularly interested in any noncoding RNAs that might be associated with diseases such as cancer. I will also be identifying clusters of cells with similar expression profiles that are only present (or absent) in diseased tissue as these could represent significant changes in cell type. 

Single cell RNA sequencing may enable us to detect unique cell types present in tumours or to find new targets for diagnosing and treating cardiovascular disease. It also allows us to learn more from the data we already have through deconvolution techniques that combine bulk RNA sequencing data with single cell data from similar tissues to identify the cell types that were present.

I hope to apply these techniques to multiple datasets while also creating workflows and tutorials to enable others to perform the same analyses using Galaxy so that we can learn even more from our public data.

My supervisors are Drs Wendi Bacon, Sushila Rigas, and Dan Johnson.