Dr Csilla Várnai

Dr Csilla Várnai

Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences
Research Fellow and CRUK Bioinformatician

Contact details

Centre for Computational Biology
Haworth Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Várnai is a Research Fellow 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 of 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.

Dr Várnai joined the Centre for Computational Biology in April 2019 as a Research Fellow in Bioinformatics.



  • 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

Dr Várnai is analysis co-lead and a member of the Project Management Group for the UK Coronavirus Cancer Monitoring Project (UKCCMP). The UKCCMP is 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. 

Dr Várnai organises the biweekly Centre for Computational Biology seminar series and journal clubs. 

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

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