Mar 8, 2024

Capstones to Careers: Anthea Travas

Medical Genomics
By Teresa Brooke-Lynn Coe

From undergraduate curiosity to a rewarding full-time career, Anthea Travas used her time during the Medical Genomics program to dive deep into the world of bioinformatics. She now has a thriving career as a Bioinformatician at the forefront of innovation in genomic medicine.

Headshot of Anthea Travas

Before graduating from the Medical Genomics (MedGen) program in 2023, Anthea received her undergraduate degree in Biology from York University. During this time, she was able to explore her interest in genetics, saying it “really shaped [her] university career.” Anthea gained exposure to genetic research through working in research labs studying the genomic profiles of bee populations and completing an honours thesis project on DNA damage responses. 

These experiences provided groundwork for her future in academia and gave her tangible skills in genomic data generation. However, they also exposed her to a massive bottleneck in genomics: data analysis.

The stark difference between the amount of data generated and the capacity for bioinformaticians to analyze it sparked a curiosity for Anthea. She explains, “Data is being generated rapidly, but the analysis is the rate-limiting step and not too many people are trained in it. It was a new niche to be explored”. This curiosity quickly became a passion during the MedGen program, as it facilitated her exploration of the specialty.

The MedGen curriculum has a significant focus on bioinformatics, providing students with the skills and tools to analyze large genomic data. However, many students find it to be an overwhelming subject to study due to its perception of having a steep learning curve and a high requirement for technical skills. However, “The hardest part of bioinformatics is starting”, Anthea asserts.

In the MedGen program, Anthea felt very supported to leap into bioinformatics. With faculty guidance, she was able to learn a variety of bioinformatic pipelines, as well as the theory behind many genomic methodologies. She explains that “being well-versed in several bioinformatic frameworks prepares you for the analytical demands of clinical research.” MedGen provided her thorough background knowledge to understand, learn, and develop new bioinformatic techniques throughout her practicum and into her new career.

Genomics research is quickly shifting towards multi-omics, and early-stage bioinformaticians greatly benefit from being a Jack-of-all-trades rather than a specialist in one framework.
Anthea Travas

Anthea completed her Capstone Practicum with Dynacare as a Bioinformatics Intern. She was drawn to this position as she appreciated the variety of experiences and insight she could gain, including business practices, genetic counselling, wet lab, and, of course, bioinformatics. Specifically, this practicum exposed her to the clinical and research sides of bioinformatics. To capitalize on the 4-month opportunity, Anthea chose to not be tied down to one specific project, instead working closely with the Research and Development team on many projects. Doing this, she gained technical skills in machine learning, data mining, pipeline development, and so much more. This dynamic mix of skills and experiences made Anthea a flexible and well-rounded bioinformatician, one of the main reasons she secured her current position.

After completing the MedGen program, Anthea started at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center (PMCC) as a Bioinformatics Analyst. There she leads several projects that often focus on integrating and analyzing data from different multi-omic techniques, supported by senior Bioinformaticians.

Multi-omics refers to the different types of information we can obtain by quantifying genomic molecules, like DNA, RNA, and/or proteins, in different ways, providing a full assessment of disease processes (check out the video to the left for more information). 

One of her current projects is analyzing single-cell DNA sequencing data to track the activities of distinct leukemic cell lineages.

Working as a research bioinformatician, Anthea is on the cutting edge of genomic innovation, allowing her to learn the latest techniques and technologies. Being early in her career, “starting in research allows [her] to learn the newest genetics techniques and provides increased flexibility,” she explains. Beyond staying up to date with rapidly evolving genomic innovations, this also allows her to develop creativity – a valuable skill needed to solve complex genomic data problems.

At this stage in her career, Anthea is excited to continue cultivating her craft at the forefront of genomic medicine. She is eager to see where genomics evolves in the coming years and is excited to be part of the genomic revolution. Anthea has been able to leverage the MedGen program towards an exciting career and we are so proud to have been part of her journey!