Richard Webster

I am an NSERC Visiting Fellow in a Government Lab, based at Health Canada’s Genomics Laboratory. Our group uses genomics tools to address toxicological questions, and as a bioinformatician I use computer programming to process big data, and implement statistical analyses. My research investigates if environmental agents damage human germ cells. If this is the case we expect to find that children, from exposed families, have more de novo mutations. By sequencing genomes, it is possible to identify environmental chemicals that produce heritable DNA mutations (i.e., occurring in sperm or eggs). Understanding why some families have higher numbers of de novo mutations and increased risk of spontaneous miscarriages / children with genetic diseases (e.g., autism, intellectual disabilities and epilepsy) is an important population health question. This genomic framework aims to determine if environmental exposures lead to heritable genetic effects. Further, sequencing humans avoids using animal models to assess the risk of an environmental exposure, obtaining information with more human health relevance.