Who are we? Where do we come from? The history of humanity is a complex affair full of twists and turns that shaped our genetic diversity and cultural identity. To unveil or rewrite some of that history, I use ancient DNA extracted from the skeletons of long-dead ancestors as a molecular time machine and travel back hundreds or thousands of years ago, at times where people arrive in and adapt to new places or meet other people. The study of ancient DNA profoundly transforms our understanding of human nature, including our origins and how our adaption to past climatic, environmental, and social change impact our metabolism, immunity, and even behaviours in present days.
The technical nature of my scientific projects, but also the high level of competition in my discipline, mean that innovation is key to push the boundaries of knowledge and draw the next generation of innovators. Disruptive thinking is also a requisite because ground-breaking results and research excellence will increase the odds of attracting funding, will be published in prestigious scientific journals, and will create opportunities for new collaborations.
Scientific research is full of methodological, technical, and theoretical challenges, and success is enthusiastically celebrated mostly because failure is very common. Additionally, there is a high level of collegiality involved in the development of new ideas, whereby knowledge is often built incrementally from sharing and connecting disparate bits of information. Therefore, my leadership is characterised by a combination of growth, agile, inclusive, and enterprise mindsets. I also put a very strong emphasis on inspiring and training early career researchers, knowing perfectly well that I am just a link in the long chain of researchers and innovators who improve our understanding of the natural world.
My latest research focuses strongly on generating equitable genomic resources that will benefit Indigenous peoples in Australia and beyond. This work is done in partnership with the National Centre for Indigenous Genomics at the Australian National University (of which I am a Honorary Associate Professor) and the Indigenous Genomics team at the Telethon
Kids Institute (of which I am a Honorary Research Associate). Genomics enhances the diagnosis and prevention of rare and common diseases, leading to the development of personalised medicine. Unfortunately, Indigenous ancestries are generally poorly represented in global genomic projects, exacerbating already significant health disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. My research, which is highly collaborative, merges cutting-edge genomic and medical science with culturally aware capacity and capability building and aims to shape a more inclusive and equitable future for all Australians.