Victoria joined the Turing in October 2019 as an Enrichment PhD student. She is a bioinformatics PhD student based at King’s College London researching into how antimicrobial resistance genes spread in the microbial communities. As an Enrichment student at the Turing, she is building software to extract these antimicrobial resistance genes. Before joining King’s College London and the Turing, she completed an undergraduate and Master’s degree in Natural Sciences, specialising in computational biology, at the University of Cambridge. She is active in supporting diversity in technology and runs an international community called ResearcHers Code that supports women working in research and technology.
Microbes that are resistant to antimicrobials, like penicillin, can spread across human populations. These microbes contain genes that code for antimicrobial resistance, which can also spread between microbes. A resistance gene from the genome of resistant microbe can be copied or cut and pasted into another genome of a non-resistant microbe, potentially making the microbe resistant. The transfer of genes between microbes happens continually but in different ways. Many of these genes are part of "mobile genetic elements" which are enable the resistance genes to be copied or cut from one genome and pasted into another genome. There are three major types of mobile genetic element that can do this: phages, transposable elements and plasmids. The challenge is to discover what mobile genetic elements are associated with antimicrobial resistance genes and how prevalent these are using all microbial DNA in a sample, known as the “metagenome”.
So far, Victoria has compared antimicrobial resistance genes in the mouth and gut and looked at that the role of phages in the spread of resistance genes with collaborators at University College Cork. She is currently developing software to find transposable elements and their association with antimicrobial resistance genes in metagenomes.