My Experience as a Postdoctoral Fellow - Emanuel Gonçalves

Wellcome Sanger Institute
Emanuel Gonçalves, Postdoctoral Fellow, Wellcome Sanger Institute

When you join us as a Postdoctoral Fellow you will benefit from a unique learning environment. We are proud to produce and analyse genetic and biological data on a scale unmatched by other institutes in Europe. Below Emanuel Gonçalves shares his experience of being a Postdoctoral Fellow at Wellcome Sanger Institute.

How long have you been working at Sanger Institute?

I have been at Sanger for three and a half years. I was initially attracted to work here through the possibility of doing cutting-edge research and to learn more about CRISPR. Before my Postdoctoral Fellowship, I was completing my PhD at The European Bioinformatics Institute and at the University of Cambridge.

Tell me about the work you are doing at Sanger Institute?

I work to identify genes that confer vulnerabilities to cancer cells and thereby can be exploited for therapeutic purposes. As a computational biologist I analyse and interpret functional genetic CRISPR screens. My favourite part of my role is the possibility to shape my projects. I currently work in a team of around 23 people in the Garnett lab. The most interesting thing about the work I am doing is studying how to deliver precise edits to any gene in a cancer cell and discover potential mechanisms that regulate its function.

What is the most rewarding aspect of doing a postdoc at Sanger? 

Our work makes a difference. The projects I am involved in have the potential to discover mechanisms that could be exploited for therapeutic treatments. We also get the privilege of working with cutting-edge technologies at a scale that is limited to a handful of institutions world-wide, and these drive new discoveries.

What are the major challenges you face?

As a Postdoc we are always looking into the future, which is often uncertain. Finding a future place at Sanger Insitute is difficult and therefore requires adaptation and imagination. When you do not get the outcome you hoped for, the most important thing is to speak to colleagues. It is always helpful to have a fresh set of eyes with a different perspective

How will your time at Sanger Institute influence your future choices? 

Greatly. At Sanger Institute you have the opportunity to meet and work together with some of the leading scientists in their fields, with that you develop skills that put you on the forefront and open many possibilities. As a computational person, the interface with the wet lab has been very important.

Best advice I’ve received at Sanger Institute: 

Be prepared to not be prepared. I feel that expecting the unexpected is an important aspect of my work as it helps me to build resilience.

Is your postdoc what you expected?

Yes and no, it’s what I wanted to do but never expected to enjoy it as much. I love the capacity I have to explore my own project ideas. I was inspired to be a Postdoctoral Fellow as I wanted to deliver cutting-edge research at Sanger Institute.

Please share some tips for someone starting a postdoc at Sanger Institute

Don’t limit yourself to your project. Read, meet, talk and imagine. Come up with projects that might seem outlandish and read, meet and talk some more. You may find yourself working on them in the future. If I had been told this myself when I was just starting out, I would have started earlier and felt more encouraged.

First thing I mastered after joining Sanger Institute

Meetings! From one to one with supervisor to collaborative meetings with international collaborations. I have become much more prepared to give presentations at short notice and to worry less about them.

What is your favourite work perk? 

The extensive training that is available. In particular, the Sanger Institute sponsored EMBL Leadership Laboratory course which I have taken advantage of. This has been a great opportunity for me to prepare for leadership and management roles.