PEOPLE: 2020 has reminded us of scientists’ strong role in society – Patricia Vera-Wolf

As part of our National Science Week articles profiling women in science and technology, Patricia Vera-World outlines her career in bioinformatics and her role at Microba.

  • Why are strong communication skills so important for STEM professionals?

Findings in any STEM related field tend to be complex and full of technical words. Strong communication skills are fundamental to transport that knowledge to non-specialised audiences and apply it into the real world.

  • How have you developed and grown communications skills throughout your career? 

I believe that communication skills are a mix of believing in yourself and having a strong background in your field. Personally, I put into practice always keeping knowledge up to date, never stopping to research new findings in my field and always thinking of the type of audience that will be listening to what I want to communicate.

  • What does a ‘day in the life’ look like for you? 

Our days usually start with a short team meeting to update what are we working on and talk about how we can support each other. According to our priorities I can spend my time processing hundreds of customer samples or generating results for our research team. 

  • How does this differ to other bioinformaticians?

Broadly, the job of a bioinformatician is biological data analytics. The major difference between my role in Microba to previous work experiences is that the possibility of improving someone’s wellbeing is on every sample that I process, so the application of my research has a direct effect on people’s lives.

  • What is your advice to 2020 graduates considering a career in bioinformatics? 

Be brave. Science is a field that requires dedication and passion for what you do. 2020 has reminded us that scientists have a strong role in society and that we can make the difference between a quick response to an unexpected event to save lives.

About the expert

Ms Patricia Vera-Wolf is a Bioinformatician at Microba, an Australian biotechnology company specialising in gut microbiome analysis and discovery. She is a Biotechnologist originally from Chile, but moved to Australia to study at The University of Queensland. Since graduating with a Master of Bioinformatics, she has worked in biological data analytics at sequencing companies and in academic research in South America and USA, with a strong focus in the microbiome field. 

She is passionate about building a bridge between academic knowledge and the general public. Her motivation in research is to generate practical knowledge that can help educate people and improve their lives. For this reason, she has participated in numerous school programs in her home country and community research projects that explore the microbiome in public spaces.

As a member of the Bioinformatics team at Microba, Patricia uses her experience in Next Generation Sequencing to ensure the quality of the genomic data and process gut microbiome samples through Microba’s Metagenomic Analysis Platform (MAP™). Her background in academia as a laboratory technician and computational biologist, plus her experience in the industry, allows her to support the operations and production side of the company as well as research commercialisation for external universities in Australia and the world.

Image description: Headshot of Patricia from the waist up wearing a black blouse with flowers on it under a light grey jacket. Patricia has long, black hair and is wearing black-rimmed glasses.