Ewan Birney is the deputy director general of the European Molecular Biology Lab (EMBL) and co-director of the European Bioinformatics Institute. In his research, Ewan combines his training in biochemistry with computer science, which made him one of the heroes of the human genome project. In this episode, he describes that an “emotional” understanding of science is often enough to have valuable discussions with experts in different fields, a concept that forms the basis of his diamonds-and-whiskers model of successful scientific teams. Ewan also explains how for him, problems have personalities, and why thinking about science while driving is a bad idea. And he discusses with us how “humans are a complicated species” can be all the scientific hypothesis you need for a grant application, and how Mendel – but not Darwin! – was an early data scientist.
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