European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL)

GWAS Catalog Technical Project Lead

European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL)

Hinxton, Cambridge, United Kingdom

About the team/job

The Samples, Phenotypes and Ontologies team are looking for a highly experienced software engineer to join their team as a technical lead on the GWAS Catalog project. The GWAS Catalog ( is a manually curated, high quality repository of all published genome wide association studies that has been running since 2008. It is considered the “go-to” resource for genetic evidence of associations between human genotypes and diseases or phenotypes.

This position represents a fantastic opportunity to lead a talented team of developers and bioinformaticians, as well as to get hands-on in applying your software engineering skills and experience to a resource with major scientific impact in a world-leading bioinformatics institute. It comes with the chance to work at the interface between big data architectures and expert biologists to help deliver the GWAS Catalog, a resource with real scientific impact and a variety of clinical applications.

Your role

In this role, you’ll be leading the team that develops the infrastructure behind the GWAS Catalog. You’ll be working closely with geneticists and biological scientists as well as other developers. You’ll need to build an understanding of the biological domain and the key needs of our users in order to build and maintain services to serve GWAS data to the community, as well as driving the creation of an entirely new system for capturing data from the authors of GWAS publications. The GWAS Catalog is well established with a large user base, so if you have previous experience of running production services, you’ll understand the challenges involved. We’re currently expanding our RESTful API, so if you’ve designed and built APIs in the past we’d love to hear from you. Individual GWAS datasets can be very large – tens or hundreds of gigabytes – and we’re storing billions of associations, so this post requires someone who can get creative to build solutions to these sort of big data problems.

The Samples, Phenotypes and Ontologies team follows agile techniques in our approach to development. As part of your role you’ll be expected to lead the development team, and this will include managing the team’s workload, running sprint planning and prioritisation meetings and establishing development milestones. If you’re the sort of person who has taken a lead in instigating or evolving team practices to ensure maximum productivity, and if you’re a believer in releasing early and often, then you’ll be a good fit for this role.

You have

If you’re an established technical lead or senior engineer with an interest in helping solve big biological problems about the genetic basis of disease, this job is perfect for you. The GWAS Catalog infrastructure is mostly written in Java, so you’ll need to be a Java expert, but we also have data pipeline services developed in Python and we make use of modern javascript frameworks for our user interfaces, so we expect candidates to have full stack experience and to be capable of both leading multidisciplinary teams of developers as well as getting hands on and coding in several languages.

To succeed in this role it is critical that you can demonstrate previous experience as a senior or lead engineer, especially if this comes with a focus on complex domains. If you’ve worked in bioinformatics previously this will be an advantage, but we’ll consider developers with a background in computer science or software development who show an eagerness to learn, and a desire to understand and solve complex biological problems. Demonstrable previous experience of requirements analysis and ground-up design and development of an infrastructure to satisfy the needs of its users will put you to the front of the queue.

Our ideal candidate will be self-motivated and capable of working both independently and with a closely interacting team of scientists in an international academic environment. This post offers the challenges and the excitement of working at the forefront of genomics and clinical data, and as such requires an eager individual with excellent communication skills. You’ll also need good writing skills, as part of this role will include writing project reports and applying for funding renewals by identifying and helping to write grant proposals.

You might also have

We make good use of tools like Docker and frameworks like Spring and Thymeleaf to deliver the GWAS Catalog, and many other technologies (Kubernetes, Django, Angular) in our other resources. SPOT is a multi talented team, so you should be able to encourage your team to learn new technologies to find the right tool for the right problem, but also know when to be pragmatic and adapt what’s already there. You should be enthusiastic about full-stack development, as you’ll be expected to develop, test and deploy tools from database to user interface. You should be keen to advance your knowledge of the latest industry standard toolkits to help continuously innovate the Catalog.

Why join us

At EMBL-EBI, we help scientists realise the potential of ‘big data’ in biology by enabling them to exploit complex information to make discoveries that benefit mankind. Working for EMBL-EBI gives you an opportunity to apply your skills and energy for the greater good. As part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), we are a non-profit, intergovernmental organisation funded by over 27 member states and two associate member states. We are located on the Wellcome Genome Campus near Cambridge in the UK, and our 850 staff are engineers, technicians, scientists and other professionals from all over the world.

EMBL is an inclusive, equal opportunity employer offering attractive conditions and benefits appropriate to an international research organisation. The remuneration package comprises a competitive salary, a comprehensive pension scheme and health insurance, educational and other family related benefits where applicable, as well as financial support for relocation and installation. For more information about pay and benefits click here.

We have an informal culture, international working environment and excellent professional development opportunities but one of the really amazing things about us is the concentration of technical and scientific expertise – something you probably won’t find anywhere else.

If you’ve ever visited the campus you’ll have experienced first-hand our friendly, collegial and supportive atmosphere, set in the beautiful Cambridgeshire countryside. Our staff also enjoy excellent sports facilities including a gym, a free shuttle bus, an on-site nursery, cafés and restaurant and a library.

What else you need to know

To view a copy of the full job description please click here

To apply please submit a covering letter and CV through our online system.

Applications are welcome from all nationalities and this will continue after Brexit. For more information please see our website. Visa information will be discussed in more depth with applicants selected for interview.

EMBL-EBI is committed to achieving gender balance and strongly encourages applications from women, who are currently under-represented at all levels. Appointment will be based on merit alone.

This position is limited to the project duration specified.

Applications will close at 23:00 GMT on the date listed above.

Please apply via recruiter’s website.

Quote Reference: embl-EBI01637