UCL Division of Biosciences

Dr Christophe Dessimoz

Dr Christophe Dessimoz

Associate Professor

Genetics, Evolution & Environment

Div of Biosciences

Joined UCL
1st Jun 2013

Research summary

Lab website: http://lab.dessimoz.org

At the interface between biology and computer science, my research seeks to better understand evolutionary and functional relationships between genes, genomes, and species. I aspire to unravel general principles of molecular evolution and to apply this knowledge to better understand molecular function and dysfunction, using statistical and computational methods. The key questions underlying my research are:

  • How can we best extrapolate our current knowledge of molecular biology, concentrated in just a handful of model organisms, to the rest of life?
  • Conversely, how can we exploit the wealth and diversity of life to better understand human biology and disease?
  • Can we meaningfully summarise the evolutionary history of species into a small number of tree topologies that capture both the vertical inheritance and most important events of non-vertical inheritance?

I tackle these problems by developing statistical and computational methods and applying them to large-scale genomic data. This process combines biological aspects in the early stages (e.g. problem statement, identifying relevant empirical observations, determining dependable benchmarks and controls), statistical, algorithmic, and computational aspects in the middle (e.g. model formulation, programming, scaling up), and biological aspects again at the end in the interpretation of the results.

Teaching summary

I organise the module BIOL1008 "Methods in Ecology and Evolution". Furthermore, I contribute two lectures to the module BIOL7015 "Computational Biology".


Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich
PhD, Computer Science | 2009
Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich
MSc, Biology | 2003


My first degree was in Biology at ETH Zürich, Switzerland. After half-year stints at Northwestern University (USA), at Tsinghua University (China), and at Chulalongkorn University (Thailand), I returned to ETH Zürich where I obtained my PhD in 2009 for contributions to comparative genomics. I went on to become a postdoc, later senior research associate at ETH Zurich. In 2011, I moved to the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute in Hinxton as visiting scientist in Nick Goldman's group, funded by an advanced researcher fellowship from the Swiss National Science foundation. In 2013, I joined the Department of Genetics, Evolution, and Environment and the Department of Computer Science—first as a Lecturer and since 2015 as a Reader. Since 2015, I am also a SNSF professor at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and a Group Leader of the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics.