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Claude McCarthy Fellowship opens doors to further collaboration

18 June 2024 | news

Meriam van Os (second from right). Photo credit: Peter Mundy, and Australasian Centre for Ancient DNA.

By University of Otago PhD candidate Meriam van Os

In 2023, I received the Claude McCarthy Fellowship which allowed me to attend the “Hands-on workshop: Current developments in bioinformatic workflows applied to ancient environmental DNA data” at the Australasian Centre for Ancient DNA, Adelaide, Australia.

The workshop focused on the processing of ancient metagenomic data, reducing noise within complex datasets, and validating results with state-of-the-art tools. This ties in perfectly with my PhD, for which I am currently producing ancient metagenomic data from ancient kurī (dog) palaeofaeces from across Aotearoa.

The bioinformatic insights and skills I acquired at the workshop will be directly applied to my PhD data. It was a relatively small group of participants (about 20), which made it a friendly and safe learning environment. In the mornings, the facilitators would talk about theories and concepts, and the afternoons were used to put these into practise by analysing data together.

It was very engaging, and we had many valuable in-depth discussions.

The workshop built well on my existing knowledge and has given me insights into how to proceed with my PhD research.

Furthermore, I connected with one of the workshop facilitators, James Fellow Yates, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA), Leipzig, Germany. MPI-EVA is one of the leading institutes in the field of ancient metagenomics and being able to learn from James directly was invaluable. Following our discussions, I have applied for a scholarship to visit MPI-EVA in Leipzig for three months later this year to work on improving one of their bioinformatic workflows, named nf-core/coproID. I am currently awaiting the outcome.

I also used my visit to the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) in Adelaide as an opportunity to network with senior researchers and to explore potential post-doctoral research ideas. Being able to meet people in person made it much easier to approach them. I have gotten interested in several projects that fit in well with my current and/or developing skillset and interests, so hopefully this will lead to more in the future!  

Without the support of the Claude McCarthy Fellowship, I would not have been able to go to the workshop and been able to make these new connections. I feel very grateful.

Meriam van Os (foreground). Photo credit: Peter Mundy, and Australasian Centre for Ancient DNA.

The Claude McCarthy Fellowship supports graduates of New Zealand universities in undertaking “original work or research in literature, science or medicine”. The fellowship supports travel overseas for short periods to present research work at conferences, and/or conducting research contributing to the New Zealand doctoral degree for which they are enrolled.

Find out more here.