Bristol, bridges, and Bath – by Shareefa Dalvie

I headed off from the University of Cape Town to the UK at the beginning of June to do my EUSARNAD stint at the University of Bristol, under the supervision of Prof. Glyn Lewis. I was to spend 4 weeks in the lovely South-Western city of Bristol, learning how to do relatively complex statistical analyses on the impressive ALSPAC cohort.

shareefa bristol valleyThe ALSPAC study or as it’s affectionately known, Children of the 90s, is a long-term health research project which recruited pregnant mothers between 1991 to 1992, exclusively from the AVON county in the South West of the UK. The researchers collected vast amounts of environmental and genetic data from the 14 000 mothers and their babies throughout their development. Today, those babies are all grown up and have kids of their own, who are also part of the study. In any case, the aim of my visit was to use some of the ALSPAC data to determine whether genetic variants interacted with stressful childhood events to result in adolescent alcohol use, and whether those gene-environment interactions are mediated by anxiety symptoms. What a mouthful! Needless to say, most of my trip was spent trying to get to grips with using the required statistical programs and dealing with multiples of multiples of variables. Thanks to Andrew Crawford and Sarah Lewis, this process was not too hard.

shareefa brizzle

As for the rest of the title, when I was not grappling with the complexities of statistical analyses, I visited the Clifton Downs lookout point which has a beautiful view of the famous Clifton suspension bridge, a Bristol landmark. For anyone travelling to that part of the world I would highly recommend a trip to Bath Spa which is one train stop away from Bristol. There I got to explore the fascinating Roman Baths and the former home of Jane Austen. So fascinating! All in all, Bristol was a memorable experience and 4 weeks went way too quickly!

– Shareefa





Genomics in Estonia! (by Christiane Nday)

I came across the EUSARNAD programme at the IADS conference in the middle of February at Stellenbosch, where I had also the opportunity to meet most of the EUSARNAD exchange trainees in South Africa. After Professor David Baldwin’s talk, at the conference, I was amazed about the opportunities that EUSARNAD offers to scientists in the neuroscience field, and I approached David for more information….

Christiane Nday  at the Estonian parliament building


Before I realized it, six weeks later,there  I was in the Estonian Genomic Center in the University of Tartu. The weather was awful, cold and snowing – in South Africa, the temperature was 30 Celsius! Nevertheless, I had a really warm welcome and full assistance to start my attachment at the Estonian Genomic Center (EGC). The EGC Bioinformatics and Lab managers, Dr Reedik Magi and Dr Lili Milani, respectively, smoothed my integration into high throughput sequencing technologies & data analysis by offering me a “personal” bioinformatician and wet lab RNA-seq technicians!

RNA-seq library prep EGC Lab

So, already approaching the end of my attachment, I can assure you that it is worth it to be here in Estonia! Alongside the scientific exposure to high throughput sequencing technologies through training, conferences and talks from international well known researchers in the field (all taking place in the EGC) I had a chance to have fruitful discussiosn on potential future collaborations between the University of Cape Town and University of Tartu. Moreover, my article is about to be published soon in the EUSARNAD series in Human Psychopharmacology.

Barbecue party at Prof Andres Metspalu house -EGC staff

I also spent some time taking advantage of the location of Estonia – weekend gateways are cheap and really interesting from a tourism point of view! I could visit other “neighbour” cities outside Estonia like Helsinki, Stockholm and Saint Petersburg. What can I say? I am really happy about my current scientific adventure!

– Christiane