NYU Abu Dhabi is an Ideal Environment for Young Researchers to Develop

“My goal has always been ... to bring together ideas,” explains postdoctoral scientist Yann Bourgeois.

As an evolutionary biologist, Yann Bourgeois’ research focuses on transferring the knowledge, processes, and skills that are widely used in population genetics, to study fields and examine species that are less commonly explored. His goal, ultimately, is to level the genomic playing field.

“I am most interested in species that have not been widely studied, such as birds, fish, and water fleas,” he explains. “I think it’s important to sample the tree of life more broadly so that we can get a more comprehensive view of what is happening in the world.”

Prior to joining NYUAD, Bourgeois completed his master’s degree at L'École Normale Supérieure in Lyon, France and received his PhD from the University of Toulouse, France. His PhD research focused on the genetic bases of color polymorphism in an Endemic Bird from Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. 

He took up his first postdoctoral position at the University of Basel, Switzerland, where he explored how host-parasite interactions can shape genetic diversity. In September 2016, he joined NYUAD.

I have been able to develop my own research projects, and simultaneously develop myself as a researcher.

Yann Bourgeois

“My goal has always been to use my research to bring together ideas and theories from different fields, with an evolutionary perspective. I’m very interested in conservation, and the support and resources available at NYUAD have allowed me to explore projects related to this field. I have been able to develop my own research projects, and simultaneously develop myself as a researcher.” 

Working under the supervision of Principal Investigator Stephane Boissinot, Bourgeois explains how strong guidance and leadership, paired with flexibility and trust, have proven to be invaluable.

“Stephane has given me the freedom to explore my own research projects, improve my writing skills and discover my own style; the opportunity to teach and supervise students, and the guidance to progress towards my career goals. He’s an excellent mentor, and has taught me a lot about how the system works – how to write a good job application, and how to apply for grants. He didn’t need to do all of these things, but he really went out of his way to help me, and I am incredibly grateful for that.”

From field work in Ethiopia, to exploring the UAE and the wider Gulf region, Bourgeois says his experiences at NYUAD and in the UAE have been multifold, both personally and professionally.

NYU Abu Dhabi researchers discovered a new species of frog living on a remote mountain in Ethiopia.

“The field work in Ethiopia is not just about catching frogs and toads to extract DNA. Thanks to my colleagues in the lab - Sandra Goutte, Jacobo Reyes-Velasco, and Joseph Manthey – I’ve learned lots about what can be done in the field, from catching and measuring birds to recording frog calls. I also had very stimulating discussions with lab members Imtiyaz Hariyani, Sebastian Kirchhof and Justin Wilcox. Altogether, I learned a lot about how we can connect studies of behavior, physiology and ecology with my own interests in evolutionary genomics.”

Bourgeois also talks fondly about the personal experiences he’s enjoyed in the UAE, from scuba diving in the waters off the Musandam peninsula to camping in the Omani mountains and kayaking through the Abu Dhabi mangroves. 

“Abu Dhabi is a fascinating place to live, with lots of things to see and do – you just need to a little bit proactive. The mangroves are beautiful; the mountains of Oman are vast and full of adventure and the diving in Mussandam is spectacular. The Louvre also opened recently and that’s been a welcome addition to the cultural scene here.”

Three years of intense postdoctoral research at NYUAD have prepared Bourgeois for his next career adventure - a full-time faculty position at the University of Portsmouth.