Wellcome Trust Centre For Mitochondrial Research

Conor Lawless

Personal Biography

I am a computational biologist. I’m particularly interested in using dynamic simulation models to understand biological systems. I enjoy using mathematical/computational models of heteroplasmic mtDNA population dynamics to improve our understanding of the progression of mitochondrial DNA diseases. Here in the WCMR I have many exciting opportunities to use “big” datasets to constrain what we would consider feasible model outputs, at the single-cell and subcellular level. I find it very motivating to be able to look at this kind of data in patient tissue and to work alongside clinicians and experimental biologists with the aim of improving the lives of patients. I also enjoy the supportive and collaborative research culture in the centre.

I maintain close contacts with researchers from Newcastle’s Centre for Cloud Computing and Big Data, using Machine Learning and Bayesian statistical approaches to learn from single-cell IMC, QIF and genetic data captured in the WCMR. I am also exploring the use of Machine Learning and clinical data to support patient prognosis.

I have a very mixed background. I have an MEng in Chemical Engineering from Imperial College, London and an MMath in Mathematics from Cambridge University (Part III Maths). I studied for my PhD in a BBSRC funded plant sciences research institute called Rothamsted Research, in Harpenden, where I worked on mathematical and computational models to predict the growth of wheat.

After that I moved to Newcastle to join the Centre for Integrated Systems Biology of Ageing and Nutrition and work for Prof Tom Kirkwood in the Institute for Ageing and Health. There I enjoyed working on a wide range of projects, including some with the WCMR, such as understanding the transition to replicative senescence during ageing, calculating the rate at which mitochondrial proteins turnover in vivo, simulating stochastic clonal expansion and cell loss in the substantia nigra and carrying out high-throughput, robot-assisted genomic screens to understand the process of telomere uncapping during senescence. I moved to the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biosciences to carry on high-throughput work studying telomeres under Prof David Lydall where I also enjoyed learning some basic microbiology and microscopy techniques. I then spent some time working as a freelance scientific computing consultant. During this time I worked on several projects with the WCMR and finally joined the centre working for Prof Doug Turnbull in 2018.

Sponsor/funder: Wellcome

Email: conor.lawless@ncl.ac.uk