Roberto Bonelli

Roberto Bonelli

PhD student Mr Roberto Bonelli
PhD student Mr Roberto Bonelli found his passion for statistics in Italy. This passion brought him to Melbourne, where he found his place at the Institute.

PhD student Mr Roberto Bonelli (right) with his supervisor Professor Melanie Bahlo
PhD student Mr Roberto Bonelli (right) with his
supervisor Professor Melanie Bahlo

Roberto’s research, supervised by Professor Melanie Bahlo, focuses on a rare eye disease called macular telangiectasia (MacTel).

“Using statistical analyses, I am exploring the genetics of people suffering from this disease, as well as their metabolism, to try to identify the genetic cause,” Roberto explained.

“Statistics is like magic that lets you talk with the data; and there are so many hidden stories behind all sorts of data.”

Last year Roberto and fellow PhD student Anna Quaglieri made a short video that explains how statistics meets biology in the search for treatments of MacTel.

Roberto was also a finalist in the 2018 Art of Science exhibition, and was profiled in a video about his piece, M-Galaxy.

More than numbers

Roberto completed degrees in statistical sciences at the University of Bologna, Italy, and then the University of Glasgow, UK.

As an exchange student at The University of Melbourne, he learnt from a friend about the bioinformatics research underway at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. Roberto immediately contacted Professor Melanie Bahlo to explore his opportunities.

“I choose to undertake a PhD the Institute because I wanted to explore the field of statistical genetics, and my friends had many exciting stories about the Institute’s research,” Roberto said.

“All my research happens on my computer – this is my laboratory. When I open a dataset of genomic information, I explore it through data visualisation.”

PhD student Mr Roberto Bonelli
PhD student Mr Roberto Bonelli's research focuses on
a rare eye disease called macular telangiectasia (MacTel)

He then digs down into the data to make important discoveries about the disease.

Although his work is screen-based, Roberto enjoys the benefits of working amongst colleagues at the Institute, as well as around the world.

“My supervisor has always encouraged me, and her network of international collaborators has enabled me to travel to California, New York City and London.”

Roberto is the LGBTQAI+ representative on the Institute’s student association, and a founding member of Melbourne’s Queers in Science network.

“The Institute has created a very special environment for diversity and inclusion, which has been of great support for a gay man like myself.”

“Studying at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute provides me with all the support and resources I need to truly perform my research at its best,” Roberto said.

Two bioinforaticians at a computer

Bioinformatics combines mathematics, statistics and computer science to solve complex biological problems.