Dr Marta Farré Belmonte received a BSc in Genetics from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB, Spain) in 2006. She then went on to purse a MSc on chromosome evolution in the same university from 2006 to 2008. During this period, she was awarded a 3-months fellowship at the University of Bari (Italy) to learn new techniques. In 2008, Dr Farré started her PhD project using genomics and bioinformatics to study genome evolution in mammalian species at UAB. She obtained a 10-months fellowship at a state-of-the-art lab at Yale University (USA) to improve her skills. She finished her PhD on 2012, and in the following month she moved to Aberystwyth University (UK) to start her first postdoc. After a year at Aberystwyth University, the lab moved to the Royal Veterinary College on September 2013, where she stayed until September 2018 as a research associate. Dr Farré joined the School of Biosciences at the University of Kent in October 2018.
During the final year project of her BSc Dr Farré became interested in how species evolve and adapt to different environments through changes in their genomes, and this has been her main line of research ever since. She aims to study genome evolution and the genetic changes associated with individual and species differences, applying the newest comparative and functional genomic techniques and the great wealth of genomic data available. In particular, she focused on the dynamics of chromosomal evolution in mammals. Although genome and chromosome evolution have been long studied we still know very little about the functional consequences of these changes and the role they might have played during evolution. To address these questions, the group uses ruminants as a model and take a multidisciplinary approach that combines experimental (WGS, RNA-Seq, ChIP-Seq and Hi-C) and bioinformatic analysis, generating results of interest to diverse fields.
MSc-R projects available for 2021
Investigating the adaptation of South Asian cattle breeds to extreme climates – can we identify genomic regions responsible for these traits?
Co-supervisor Dr Anastasios Tsaousis
Thousands of years of artificial selection coupled with human-driven migration and adaptation to diverse continents resulted in ~1,000 cattle breeds. Most of them, highly adapted to local environmental conditions and possessing unique genetic profiles. In this project, using a combination of wet-lab and bioinformatics, the student will genotype ~300 samples from several cattle breeds from South Asia adapted to extreme conditions with the aim to understand where these breeds originated and identify their unique genetics.
Study the genetic diversity of the Defassa waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus).
This project is in collaboration with the Aspinall Foundation.
Waterbuck, a species of African antelope, is usually considered to comprise two subspecies: Ellipsen and Defassa, based on differences in phenotype and geographical distribution. The Defassa waterbuck is Near Threatened, while the Ellipsen waterbuck is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List.
Studies on the genetic differences between subspecies studies showed some degree of genetic differentiation in the Defassa populations; however, these studies did not include individuals from all the distribution range, particularly from central Africa (including Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola) and more distal populations in west Africa (Mali and Guinea-Bissau).
The host perspective: studying the genetics of animals infected with the parasite Cryptosporidium
Co-supervisor Dr Anastasios Tsaousis
Cryptosporidium is the pathogenic agent of cryptosporidiosis, a disease mainly characterized by diarrhoea in humans and livestock. Transmission of Cryptosporidium can result from ingestion of contaminated food/water, or by direct transmission from host to host. In humans, prevalence and severity of infection is increased in infants, in the elderly and in immunodeficient people including AIDS patients.
In this project, the student will use genomic data from 3,500 cattle with different levels of parasite infection load to identify the regions of the DNA that might be responsible to confer resistance to infection. This is a combined wet-lab and bioinformatics project where the student will learn the most up-to-date techniques to genotype and perform GWAS analysis.
Exploring a role for APOBEC3 genes in mammalian evolution
Co-supervisors: Tim Fenton
The apolipoprotein-B mRNA editing enzyme catalytic polypeptide like (APOBEC) genes encode polynucleotide (deoxy)cytidine deaminases that fulfil important roles in metabolism and immune responses via their ability edit DNA and RNA sequences. The APOBEC3 sub-family genes restrict replication of exogenous retroviruses and retrotransposons but at a cost; off-target APOBEC3 editing activity generates somatic mutations in human cancer.
This project will utilise computational and wet-lab approaches, leveraging genome sequencing data from a range of mammalian species with different APOBEC3 gene repertoires to examine the APOBEC3 contribution to heritable mutations and to further define its role as an evolutionary driver.