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Martien Groenen

Prof Dr. Martien Groenen

"Allow young researchers the freedom to choose their own path"

Animal Breeding & Genomics Centre, Wageningen University
Group size:  15 (part of approximately 75 people within the centre)

1. What is the leading research theme in your group?
"There are two main themes. The first is genetic variation relating to species formation and domestication. On a basic level, we want to understand how changes within genomes contribute to species formation and how genomes have changed during domestication of farm animals. Currently, our primary focus is pig. We compare, for example, genomes of different species of pig from South-East Asia that diverged approximately 2-4 million years ago. This way, we hope to shed light on the genetic background of species formation. The second theme concentrates on complex traits in farm animals and is more applied in set up. We collaborate with breeding companies to better understand the role of genetic variation in complex traits that are relevant to the agricultural sector, such as animal health, performance and product quality."

2. With what type of groups or organisations do you collaborate most and why?
"We have a strong international orientation and we collaborate with several animal genomics research groups in Europe, the USA and China. We also have close ties to research institutes like the Roslin Institute, INRA in France, the EBI and the Beijing Genomics Institute. For our research on complex traits, we have longstanding partnerships with some of the leading breeding companies in the world, of which many are located in the Netherlands. Finally, depending on the specific topic at hand, we collaborate on an ad hoc basis with farm animal research groups working on other aspects than genetics."

3. From your research perspective, what are the main challenges in bioinformatics right now?
"Handling the massive datasets that result from whole genome research. Storage and transfer is already a problem, let alone the integration with other information sources. We definitely need more computer power and new, smart algorithms that allow not only faster, but more efficient data processing."

4. What is the most important task of a group leader?
"To create a stimulating environment where young researchers have the freedom to come up with their own ideas and choose their own path."

5. How would you describe the atmosphere in your group?
"It is a close-knit and very ambitious team that operates in a very informal and open atmosphere."

Text by Esther Thole.