Dr Csilla Várnai

Dr Csilla Várnai

Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences
Assistant Professor in Bioinformatics

Contact details

Institute of Cancer and Genomics Sciences
Haworth Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Várnai is an Assistant Professor in Bioinformatics. Her research is at the interface of experimental and computational biology, working closely with molecular biologists to understand the link between the 3D organisation of genome and its function in gene regulation. Her expertise is in method development for and application of statistical analysis to genomics data, molecular modelling, Bayesian inference, optimisation and machine learning. 


  • PhD (Cantab) in Atomistic Simulations, University of Cambridge, 2007-2011
  • MSc (summa cum laude), Chemistry, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary, 2002-2007


Dr Várnai received a PhD in computational physics from the Engineering Department, University of Cambridge in 2011. She developed an adaptive QM/MM technique for molecular modelling of reactions in solution.

From 2011 to 2014, Dr Várnai was a postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Systems Biology Centre, University of Warwick. She worked on method development for ab-initio protein structure prediction and protein-protein interaction prediction from evolutionary information of protein sequences, using Bayesian methods and molecular modelling.

From 2014 to 2016, Dr Várnai was a Research Fellow, then from 2016 to 2019 a senior research scientist at the Nuclear Dynamics Programme of the Babraham Institute, Cambridge, UK. Her research focussed on statistical analysis and molecular modelling of chromatin structure based on next generation sequencing data for chromosome conformation capture (Hi-C and single-cell Hi-C) experiments. In close collaboration with experimentalists, she studied structural changes of the genome and its interplay with epigenetic marks and gene expression throughout the cell cycle and in pre-implantation embryonic development of mice, as well as the role of cohesin complex in the formation of chromatin structure.

In 2019, Dr Várnai joined the University of Birmingham as a Research Fellow in Bioinformatics. Her role focussed on the computational biology aspect of often large collaborative research projects with microbiologists and clinicians. She also provided data analysis and experimental design advice as well as bioinformatics analysis quotes for grant applications, and she managed and delivered bioinformatics service. 

In 2022, Dr Várnai has joined the faculty of the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences of the College of Medical and Dental Sciences as an Assistant Professor in Bioinformatics in a Research & Teaching role.



  • The link between structure and function of biological matter.
  • Molecular modelling with application to soft systems, proteins and chromatin.
  • Protein and genome sequence evolution.
  • Applications of Bayesian inference, optimisation and machine learning.
  • Statistical analysis of patient derived data.

Other activities

In the UK Coronavirus Cancer Monitoring Project  (UKCCMP), Dr Várnai was analysis co-lead and a member of the Project Management Group. The UKCCMP was a UK-wide interdisciplinary collaboration, covering expert knowledge from clinical, legal, statistical, and computer science specialities and provides real-time information on the impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients to help clinicians make critical decisions.

In an outreach project supported by the Babraham Institute, Dr Várnai worked with Max Cooper music artist and Andy Lomas visual artist on a music video “Chromos” and a virtual reality immersive experience inside the chromosomes of a cell, which featured in a Naked Scientist podcast and was exhibited at the Science Museum, London and the ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany.


For a list of publications refer to Google Scholar  


View all publications in research portal