Biological Sciences

Karin Hrovatin

Karin graduated from our MSc Bioinformatics programme in 2019 and is currently doing a PhD.

Name Karin Hrovatin
Programme MSc Bioinformatics
Year of Graduation 2019

an MSc with distinction at the University of Edinburgh contributed to my reputation as a researcher, helping me to get the employment positions that I wished for.

Karin Hrovatin

What path has your career taken since graduation?

I had arranged my first employment well before the end of my MSc. I had directly contacted a few institutions/companies and had been invited to a few ad hoc interviews.  I got a job as a researcher in a Bioinformatics laboratory at the Faculty of informatics and computer sciences in Ljubljana.

A year after my MSc I had also applied for different PhD positions and decided to accept a PhD position in MUDS (Munich School for Data Science) programme at TUM (Technical University of Munich). As I changed fields during my MSc (biotechnology to bioinformatics) the decision to search for PhDs only after I had finished my studies was very important. Had I applied during my MSc (with most of the PhD deadlines already in Autumn) I would have surely chosen the wrong thing.

Both during my first employment and my PhD I am/will be working in a machine learning oriented bioinformatics laboratory in collaboration with biologists. This allows me to make the best use of my mixed biological-informatics background. It also enables me to further improve my computational and data science skills, which are necessary for the advanced exploratory projects I want to undertake in the future.

What is your current role and what does your work involve?

I am mining time course expression data of Dictyostelium discoideum developmental mutants. The data requires development of new analysis procedures or adaptation of existing methods, deviating from standard protocols. This makes the work both more demanding and rewarding, as it enables me to learn on the go.

In addition, we are also tightly collaborating with the biologists who provided the data. This brings new a perspective to the analysis and helps us to improve our methodology. To ease the presentation of the results I am preparing interactive data exploration workflows. For this I am using a data mining and visualisation tool Orange, which is being continuously developed by the laboratory. The Orange is very convenient for sharing of computational results as well as for visual exploration, so I believe that I will continue using it even after I leave the laboratory.

What experiences do you feel helped you get to your current position?

I have always excelled as a student. Additionally, during my BSc at the University of Ljubljana I had been heavily involved in the research community and was first author of multiple scientific papers. During my MSc at the University of Edinburgh I had less time for extracurricular activities as I had strongly devoted myself to my studies. I had learned a lot by putting plenty of effort into the practical assignments. Due to my motivation, practical, and writing skills I also won the prize for best Bioinformatics MSc thesis at the University of Edinburgh.

Furthermore, I also participated in debate community (during High School and BSc) and on entrepreneurial competitions. This helped me to develop my soft skills, which enabled me to win awards in the above mentioned areas.

How have you used the skills and/or knowledge developed during your degree in your career?

As I am a researcher I daily use my practical, theoretical, and communication skills.

What do you think was the most valuable aspect of your time at Edinburgh in preparation for your career?

The curriculum at Edinburgh had strong practical focus, which was essential for enabling me to perform independent research. In addition, an MSc with distinction at the University of Edinburgh contributed to my reputation as a researcher, helping me to get the employment positions that I wished for.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in your area of work?

I would suggest to everyone to put a lot of effort into the practical assignments, as this is vital for performing independent research. The University of Edinburgh offers great support for this (compared to the university where I did my BSc). If you have extra time try to get involved in the research at the university, as this can later determine if you get a PhD or not.

There is also a lot of theory to be learned. I did my BSc in biotechnology so switching to bioinformatics data science required me to learn a lot about statistics and data analysis. This knowledge enables me to understand already developed methods (and to appropriately use them) as well as to develop my own analysis protocols.

Information given in April 2020.