theshortread5
Welcome to The Short Read, our weekly peek behind the curtain at the people who make this amazing community tick. Make sure to check back every Tuesday for the latest installment.

Carl Smith, Managing Editor of Front Line Genomic

Carl Smith, Managing Editor of Front Line Genomics Magazine

Carl Smith is our very own Managing Editor here at Front Line Genomics. As the very first employee at Front Line Genomics, he’s seen the company grow from the very beginning. As Managing Editor, he puts together Front Line Genomics Magazine, and runs the publishing division. He completed his PhD in Genetics at University College London, where he also developed a passion for science media.

Despite his profile photo, he is not an outdoorsman.

What are you working on right now?

I’m reviewing our content strategy across FLG, and trying to get the next issue of our magazine out! In particular I’m taking a look at the kinds of features we write, the topics we cover, and if there’s a better way to do it that still fits our philosophy.

I’m also working with our friends at Greenwood Genetic Centre on how to take Race The Helix global  🙂 

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your work at the moment?

We’re a young and fast-growing company. That’s an exciting situation to be in, but it does also bring some stress with it. The biggest challenge is making sure we prioritise. There is a lot we want to achieve, and a lot of projects we want to get underway to do that. The temptation is always there to try do too much at once.

We also face the same challenge most media organisations face on a day-to-day basis: how do we make sure we get the hottest stories first, and present a great narrative!

Name one big development that you would like to see in your field the next 18 months.

I’d like to see the continuation of the big developments we’re seeing already. Gene editing, synthetic biology, AI, are all super exciting, but the stuff that’s going to make a positive impact quickest is the work we’re seeing around liquid biopsies. For two reasons in particular:

  • A tissue biopsy is extraordinarily unpleasant for the patient
  • You can do so much more with liquid biopsies

I love the thought of getting sequenced, and then looking at different apps to get different information when I want it, but in terms of making a real difference now – for me it’s liquid biopsies that people will understand and feel the benefits of fastest.

On a publishing side of things, I hope the trend toward open access publishing continues. The old subscription model is outdated, and not fit for purpose. There are plenty of ways for publishers to generate revenue without depriving people of access to knowledge that their tax money may have funded.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was Spring of 2009, I presented my poster at the UCL GEE Postgraduate Symposium only for my PhD supervisor to say my poster looked “A bit S#@t”. That summer, I took the same offending item to the Gordon Research Conference for Microbial Population Biology, at the Proctor Academy, Andover, NH, USA. The conference where names are made. At the start of the session on Social Evolution (in which my supervisor was presenting), I won the poster prize and a pretty cool Darwin t-shirt. A lot of beer was drunk that night. The t-shirt fits a little tight now.

Aside from that moment of vindication, I can honestly say my proudest achievement is the team I’ve built here at FLG. If you’re reading this, then you’ll be familiar with the work of Frances, Megan, Frida, and Liz. Along with our Commercial Manager, AJ, they make every day a joy (mostly). The team all believes in what we’re trying to do, and are always willing to help each other out without even needing to be asked. It’s a very special team!

Which scientists, living, dead, or fictional, would you invite to dinner, and why?

Richard Feynman. I read his excellent book ‘Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!’ as a teenager. To say he was a ‘character’ is somewhat of an understatement, but what I really took from his reminiscences was that it’s ok to ask ‘stupid’ questions. It’s a lesson I still try to teach my team today. Don’t be afraid to ask something that might sound stupid. The answer will give you the information you need to ask your next question – before you know it you’ll be problem-solving and innovating.

Alfred Russell Wallace. Less so these days, but he is still someone often overlooked by the history of the theory of evolution. Not only did he arrive to the same conclusion as Darwin, but he’d also have some excellent stories from his travels!

Carl Jung. I could write thousands of words on him, so I’ll keep this short – I think he’d have a fascinating point of view on most things!

Duncan Greig. My PhD supervisor. I can’t remember a session at the pub that wasn’t made infinitely better by his being there and leading from the front. He’s full of useful advice for just about any situation, and one of the most critical thinkers I’ve ever come across.

What advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?

It’s advice that I got right at the end of my PhD. It’s proved useful throughout my career, but it’s something I wish I’d known from day one. When sharing my thoughts on doing a Postdoc, I mentioned to Duncan that I felt there was a big gap between where I was, academically, and where the Postdocs I knew where. In response, he said that everyone has that early on in their career, and that it can often feel like you’re on the verge of getting found out as not being good enough. The trick to getting over that is to trust yourself, learn quickly, and recognise that you’re probably not the only one feeling that way!

Opinions and views expressed in The Short Read are the interviewee’s and not those of the home institution


Why not check out The Short Read archives? 

George Church 
“Follow Your Dreams, not the Drove”

George Church, Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School

Amalio Telenti 
Defying the “Exome-Centric” View

Amalio Telenti

Anna Middleton 
“It’s OK to Be a Bit Creative and Entrepreneurial”

Nan Doyle
“Get Clear on What Matters to You”  

Nan Doyle

David Smith 
The “Real Keys to Scientific Success”

Hannes Smárason 
The Importance of Grit

Hannes Smárason

Eric Topol 
“Always Question; Never Accept Dogma”

Kristen Sund
“You Don’t Change Culture Overnight, it Happens in Baby Steps”

Kristen Sund

Manuel Corpas 
“Don’t Rely on the Future to Make Your Choices Now”

Manuel Corpas

Brendan Gallagher 
“Let Your Work’s Ripple Effects Help Sort the Future Out”

Hayley Robinson
When Technology Outpaces Policy

Hayley Robinson - MGH

Valentina Nardi 
“Like a Detective Solving a Puzzle”

Valentina Nardi

Stephen Kingsmore 
“Don’t Forget to Breathe!”

Stephen Kingsmore

Judith Benkendorf 
“Do Not be Afraid to Look For Mentors” 

Judith Benkendorf

David Flannery
“If Only We Could Predict the Future” 

David Flannery ACMG

Sarah Teichmann
Exploring the Vast Variety 

Sarah Teichmann

T. Patrick Hill 
“Never Forget That Humility is the Mark of Greatness” 

Never forget that humility is the mark of greatness

Liz Harley 
“Give Yourself Permission to be Challenged” 

Liz Harley

Nick Lench
“Strive to Work With the Best”  

Nick Lench

Carlos Bustamante
“We’re All Adding Our Stone to the Pile” 

Dr. Carlos Bustamante

Paula Goldenberg
“Genetics is a Rapidly Changing Field” 

Paula Goldenberg

Said Ismail
“Making WGS Affordable to Labs and Individuals in Lower Income Countries” 

Said Ismail

James Christensen 
“Research is a Marathon, Not a Sprint” 

James Christensen

Enrique Velazquez
“Innovative Technologies are Potential Game Changers” 

enrique velazquez

Damien Tully 
“Once You Get the Bug for Science, It’s Infectious” 

Damien Tully

Nazneen Rahman
“Sciences is Surprisingly Fashion Driven” 

Nazneen Rahman

Kazuharu Arakawa
“Don’t Get Too Caught Up With Secondary Findings” 

 

Kazuharu Arakawa

Nan Fang
“Bioinformatics has Become Vital to Make Sense of All Sequencing Data”

Nan Fang

Robert Green 

“Pick the Right Controversy” 

Robert Green Genomes 2 People


Who would you like to see interviewed for The Short Read? Let us know via contact@frontlinegenomics.com