Nathan Watson-Haigh

Dr Nathan Watson-Haigh

Research Fellow in Bioinformatics

School of Biological Sciences

Faculty of Sciences

Nathan has over 15 years experience in the field of bioinformatics with expertise in genomics, transcriptomics, system biology, phylogenetics, bioinformatics training, Linux systems administration, pipeline development, high-performance and cloud computing.

Nathan's background was first in biology, by undergraduate training, and then in bioinformatics by PhD. During his PhD he investigated the location of the root, the oldest part, of the eukaryotic tree of life. It was here where he learned about phylogenetics and molecular sequence analysis. At this time he was also exposed to high-performance computing infrastructure and the Linux operating system. In addition, he became involved in Open Source projects with contributions to BioPerl in the form of writing unit tests.

Following his PhD he took up a bioinformatics postdoctoral position on a project looking at the range margins of Arabidopsis lyrata ssp. petraea. It was here where Nathan was first exposed to the 'omics. His principle role was to analyse microarray data as well as to integrate datasets coming from transcriptomics, metabolomics, proteomics, population genetics and ecological studies. During this time, Nathan was responsible for the systems administration of several Linux machines and was first exposed to metabolomics data analysis.

Nathan then joined CSIRO as a postdoctoral research fellow using system biology approaches to investigate complex production traits in livestock species. Nathan drew on his prior experiences with microarrays and developed his knowledge in reproducible research and high-performance computing in the analysis of co-expression networks.

Nathan got his first taste of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) data when he joined the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) as a senior bioinformatician. It was here where he led efforts to assemble a grapevine  genome, spearheaded efforts to establish an unincorporated bioinformatics interest group in South Australia (BIG SA) and led the establishment of a cloud-based Bioinformatics Training Platform (BTP) in collaboration with Bioplatforms Australia (BPA), CSIRO Bioinformatics Core and the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI).

Nathan joined the ACPFG in the School of Ag, Food & Wine in late 2013. He played a pivotal role in the development and application of analytical approaches and pipelines to NGS-based wheat genomics data sets. He was responsible for setting up and managing the Linux-based scientific computing infrastructure, including several large memory compute nodes configured as a Slurm cluster, 100's TBytes of clustered filesystem storage and around 2 dozen virtual machines.

  • Exploring genetic diversity to identify new heat tolerance genes in wheat (LP150100694; $680k) ARC - Linkage Projects (2016-2020)
  • Next Generation Enhancement of the South Australian Regional Facility for Molecular Ecology and Evolution (LE130100065; $370k). ARC - Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (2013-2014)
  • Improving bioinformaticians productivity through Software Carpentry ($10k). Australian Bioinformatics Network (2013).
  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2020 Principal Supervisor Identifying Gene Expression Changes Associated with Autophagic Response Regulation in Individuals with Alzheimer's Disease Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Ms Wenjun Liu
    2019 Co-Supervisor Global Analysis of Seed Development during Mucilage Production in Plantago Ovata Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mrs Lina Herliana
    2019 Co-Supervisor Defining the Role of Vacuolar Pyrophosphatase (OVP) Genes in Abiotic Stress Tolerance in Rice Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Aaron Layne Phillips
    2019 Co-Supervisor GABA Signalling in Cereals Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Na Sai
    2019 Co-Supervisor The Role of RNA Modifications in Endosperm Development Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Huong Thi Thuy Ta
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2014 - 2018 Co-Supervisor Defining Transcriptional Networks Associated with Plant Salinity Tolerance Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Shanika Lakmini Amarasinghe
  • Committee Memberships

    Date Role Committee Institution Country
    2014 - 2014 Member Student Management Committee ACPFG Australia
  • Memberships

    Date Role Membership Country
    2011 - 2013 President Bioinformatics Interest Group for South Australia (BIG SA) Australia
  • Editorial Boards

    Date Role Editorial Board Name Institution Country
    2019 - ongoing Associate Editor Plant Methods BioMed Central United Kingdom
  • Position: Research Fellow in Bioinformatics
  • Phone: 83136158
  • Email:
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: Santos Petroleum Engineering, floor 4
  • Room: 4 19
  • Org Unit: School of Biological Sciences

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