In the field of genetics, mitochondria play a critical role in understanding an organism's evolution and function. During my time at university, I explored these aspects through the green alga Haematococcus lacustris, which is notable for producing the antioxidant astaxanthin.

The project began with analyzing the mitochondrial genome (mDNA) of Haematococcus lacustris, building on previous work on its extensive plastid genome. This task was primarily a deep dive into mitochondrial genomics.

Starting with the extraction and sequencing of mDNA using next-generation sequencing technologies, we encountered a complex array of genetic information. The challenge was assembling these sequences into contigs to reveal the structure of the mitochondrial genome.

For this, I used Canu for assembly and MUSCLE for sequence alignments. These tools helped piece together the mDNA from the raw sequences, a task akin to solving a complex puzzle.

By aligning the contigs with known sequences from related species, we uncovered similarities and unique features of Haematococcus lacustris's mitochondrial DNA. Notably, discovering that 90% of its mDNA shared sequences with the chloroplast was significant, highlighting an unusual evolutionary path and shedding new light on mitochondrial-genomic relationships.

This project was not just about academic achievement; it was a practical exploration into mitochondrial genomics, showing how technology and biology intersect to unravel genetic secrets.

I am thankful for the support from my supervisor David Smith and Xi Zhang during this research. The work has opened up new possibilities in genomics for me– showcasing the potential of combining computational tools with genomic data to advance our understanding of biology.