Simon Renny-Byfield

Now a Research Scientist at DuPont Pioneer

Simon Renny-Byfield was a post-doctoral scholar in the lab of Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra at UC Davis. He  is relatively new to the Panzea group, having started in October 2014.

Simon is as computational biologist with a focus on crop plant evolution. He is currently analyzing the impact of copy-number variants and presence-absence variants on genome diversity in wild maize.
He gained his PhD at Queen Mary University of London in 2012, studying the dynamics of allopolyploid genomes in tobacco. Since then, and before arriving at UC Davis, Simon was a post-doc at Iowa State University in the lab of Jonathan F. Wendel, where he worked on analysis of ancient whole-genome duplication and RNA-seq analysis in cotton.

Generally, his research utilizes high throughout computational techniques to address interesting questions in evolutionary and population genomics.

Why I became a scientist:

I never intended to be a scientist, it was something that I fell into, but I’m rather glad it turned out that way.

At school, in England, I was never a high achiever and I’m sure the teachers at my school would be quite surprised to know that I am pursuing an academic career. I attempted a bachelors degree at the age of 18, but dropped out only a few years later to work in retail. After several years as a manager at a drug store, I gave up to return to college and study genetics. Studying was much easier the second time around and I found myself increasingly engaged with the topic of plant evolutionary genetics. I very much enjoyed studying, did much better than at school, and wanted to know more. So, deciding to do a PhD at the end of my undergraduate degree was an easy choice, and one I am glad I made.

During my PhD I was initially trained as a cytogeneticist, but quickly turned to computational genomics and taught myself to code in bash, R and perl. Surprisingly, I found coding one of the most rewarding aspects of my PhD and this had a massive impact on the future direction of my research.

I feel lucky to be working in such a dynamic field of science and look forward to the new challenges ahead.

PhD    2012    Queen Mary University of London
BSc    2008    Queen Mary University of London

Irene Manton Prize    2014    Linnean Society of London
Bevan Prize        2008    Queen Mary University of London


Panzea was funded by the National Science Foundation, Plant Genome Research Project, award #1238014: “The Biology of Rare Alleles in Maize and Its Wild Relatives”; the research groups on this project were also supported by the USDA-ARS, their home institutions, and/or various other sources of funding.