Matt Berriman

Favourite Thing: Like most scientists, the thing I enjoy most is discovering things. Every now and then we find something that nobody else has seen before and that’s exciting!



Sandhurst Comprehensive (1982-1987); Wellington College (1987-1989)


1989-1994, Manchester University, studied medicine then switched to Biochemistry

Work History:

Rockefeller University in New York for 2 years, then 10 years (!) at the Sanger Institute



Area of Research:

The genomes of parasites

Find out more:

My research area is described here and the genomes that I’ve worked on can be found here

Me and my work

I try to understand parasites by looking at and comparing their DNA sequences.

Parasites fascinate me.  They come in many shapes and sizes, from microscopic malaria parasites in the blood to very long tapeworm in your gut.  They also cause a massive cause range of disease from deadly malaria, to face-destroying Leishmania.  On the other hand, some them do nothing apart from live inside you for years or decades.  In my work, we try to learn as much as possible about each parasite by using computers to look at their DNA code.  By comparing the DNA from different parasites we can find clues as to what makes two parasites so similar or so different.

My Typical Day

Catch-up with e-mail and then have lots of meetings to discuss results & plan new projects

Genome sequencing and my research

Everything I do involves genome sequencing

 We start with some DNA from mashed-up parasites and prepare it for sequencing – that’s the process where every letter of an organism’s DNA code is read.  We then try to piece together the letters  into their correct order.  After that, the fun bit is trying to figure what those letters mean. We use computer programs to find where the individual genes are and to make a best guess as to what they do.  When we’ve cracked the genome from one parasite (that’s all of its DNA sequence), we then compare it to the genome of other parasites.  Much of the DNA sequence in one parasite is very similar to that of another but where DNA is most different, we find clues into weird differences between the parasites themselves.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Enthusiastic, excitable, big

What music do you have on your iPod?

Lots of out-of-date dance music

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Tough question: possibly cage-diving with great white sharks, or skydiving in Africa, or cave-diving in mexico, or just sleeping under the stars in the Amazon jungle

What do you like to do away from work?

Days out with my kids

What did you want to be after you left school?

Lots of things: when I was 10, a dustman, then a pilot, then a doctor but never a scientist.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

I used to get detentions for forgetting things, like homework or PE kit.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Crack the DNA code of malaria parasites

Tell us a joke.