The following was written by Katerina Kechris, Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director, University of Colorado – Denver. School of Public Health.
In mid-May 2015, working groups from the Beyond Bioinformatics Program gathered during the Bioinformatics Transition Workshop. This was a culmination of eight months of progress for over 10 working groups. The workshop topics were diverse and covered a variety of topics including epigenetics, microbial communities, evolutionary models, imaging genetics, next generation sequencing errors, high-dimensional discrete data, multiple hypothesis testing and data integration. The diversity of these topics reflects the current state of research in the biomedical sciences where technologies are advancing the study of biological mechanisms, structures, populations and disease. These technologies are generating high-dimensional and complex data structures providing intriguing opportunities for statisticians, mathematicians and computer scientists to develop new models, methods and algorithms to answer important biological questions.
As a leader for one of the two Data Integration working groups, I was excited to hear about the activities from the other working groups during the workshop. I found their progress impressive, considering that many of the group members did not know each other until the Opening Workshop just eight months earlier. The transition workshop gave me the opportunity to reflect: How does one measure success of a program year and a working group? There are the usual metrics of publications, conference presentations and grant proposals that will be documented in great detail for reports. But at the workshop I could see more qualitative and interpersonal measures of successes. First, new collaborations were developed among researchers who would otherwise not have had the opportunity to meet and work together.
Personally, I enjoyed getting to know and working as a team with the other Data Integration working group leaders and members. Second, I was pleased to see great attendance and presentations at the workshop by students and post-docs. I know in several cases that the working group facilitated thesis and post-doctoral research projects for these junior investigators. Finally, I observed that there are ongoing plans to continue the working group efforts beyond the formal program year, which speaks to the positive aspects of the program. As for our working groups, it was such a pleasure to make new colleagues and see the evolution of how we approached the problem of data integration with very different perspectives and methods. I look forward to learning about the continuing progress of all groups.