I am a bioinformatician working at a university bioinformatics core facility. I recently earned my PhD from the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, major in Molecular and Biochemical Nutrition and minor in Statistics. My research during my Master’s and PhD constitutes using animal models (hamsters; my sincere apologies to my readers that owns hamsters) to study the metabolic effect of functional lipids of plant origin. In other words, I was a lab rat focusing on biochemistry, analytical chemistry and statistics. I handled large scale high-dimensional data generated from mass spectrometers and sequencing machines, and am used to thinking about biological data from the perspective of “Big Data”. However, analyzing large scale biological data as a profession takes a lot more than a PhD studying cellular energy metabolism and a few hamster bites, which is why I decided to start this blog documenting my journey transitioning from a web lab biologist to a bioinformatician.
In my opinion, bioinformatics is an intersection of life science, computer science and statistics. In this field, people usually come from a background of either computer science, who has strong knowledge of building and implementing computing systems in both hardware and, in my mind especially, software, or come from a background of life science, who has a systemic understanding, through practical training, of computational biology. There are certainly people coming from a background of statistics to become a bioinformatician, although in my mind, they are more of a biostatistician than a bioinformatician, as they “oversight” high level topics of a scientific study, ranging from hypothesis definition, experimental design, building methods and models for statistical testing, and drawing conclusions after statistical inferences.
This is just my rudimentary view of the field of bioinformatics, and I am sure as I do better, my view will change through time. At least for now, I am doing my best to fill in the missing part in my academic training to be the best bioinformatician I can be, which is a good understanding of how a computing system works, how to code better and both R and python, how to construct my code to be readable, reusable and generalizable, and how to write and build tools and packages in a most user friendly way. In this mission, my boyfriend Austin has been very helpful.
Austin is a software developer, and he did more than burst out laughing when I ask him probably some of the most stupid questions he’s ever have to answer. That, plus the fact that he talks and rambles a lot, whether I am listening or not (doesn’t seem to matter), really helped me build some understanding of how different computing and operating systems work. If you are interested, Austin recently launched his own blog ShibaBytes documenting our life, technology in general and our shiba Tati.
Also I have decided to put a picture in every post, so I want to formally introduce you to our shiba, Tati. She just turned one year old about a month ago. As I am writing this post, she is next to me, chewing on some papers I left on the carpet, so if you excuse me, I have to go stop her now.