Recovering from the Epigenetics Workshop

three people talking at the meeting

Michael Zhang (UT Dallas), Zhaohui (Steve) Qin and Shili Lin (Ohio State, co-organizer)

The following is from Zhaohui (Steve) Qin, Associate Professor, Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, who attended the SAMSI Epigenetics Workshop March 9-11, 2015.

I was sitting near my departure gate at RDU Wednesday afternoon, waiting for my return flight after attending the SAMSI workshop on Epigenetics. Suddenly I feel so tired. I have good reason for being exhausted. I feel that my brain has been set on high-spin mode all of the last three days. This is so strange. It is supposed to be a low-intensity meeting. Only a handful of talks and just about 50 attendees. It feels so different from attending other conferences such as ENAR, JSM or ASHG.

First, I know almost everyone at the workshop. For the speakers, I either know them personally, or I know their work. At every break, I barely have time to grab a cup of coffee, not mentioning checking emails. There is always someone I want to talk to within five feet of me wherever I go. And not like the massive conferences, there is plenty of space at the corridor in this cozy SAMSI building. So I feel totally comfortable to join in a conversation.

Inkyung Jung (UCSD), Chenchen Zou (Jackson Lab) and Miriam Huntley (Harvard).

Inkyung Jung (UCSD), Chenchen Zou (Jackson Lab) and Miriam Huntley (Harvard).

Second, there is so much to learn, to talk about and to think. Epigenetics is a hot area these days, new technologies and new findings are emerging almost daily. This is a great opportunity to immerse myself in this exciting field, with so many experts in these areas walking around me. Thanks to Dr. Shili Lin, the set of speakers at the workshop is amazing. A few senior and very experienced scientists plus a large cohort of young and energetic young scientists. In the past three days, I learned several new ideas or results/findings. And I am pretty sure my fellow attendees felt the same way. Everyone is asking each other what’s new. I won’t be surprised if new collaborations were started right at the workshop. I wish more conferences I am going to will be like this one. And I am certain that I will come back to this nice little building when the next opportunity arrives.

Group of people sitting looking at laptops during a break

Yongseok Park (U Pittsburgh), Inkyung Jung (UCSD)

I felt so sympathetic towards my colleagues Karen Conneely and Hao Wu, who have to drive six hours back home. How can someone still have the energy to do that after three long days is really beyond me. I am determined that I am going to sleep soundly during my flight back, no matter how bad the turbulence is.

And I did.

It is Hard to Define What is Beyond Bioinformatics

The following blog entry was written by ClarLynda Williams-DeVane, Assistant Professor Bioinformatics/Biostatistics, Department of Biology and Director of Bioinformatics Genomics and Computational Chemistry Core (BGCCC) at the Biotechnology Biomedical Research Institute (BBRI), North Carolina Central University; Building Interdisciplinary Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH)  Duke University.


ClarLynda Williams-Devane

Dr. ClarLynda Williams-DeVane

Two weeks ago I participated in SAMSI’s Opening Workshop for the 2014-15 Program on Beyond Bioinformatics: Statistical and Mathematical Challenges. I was particularly interested in participating in this program because of the focus on data integration and large-scale data methodology. The focus of my research is in large-scale data integration for complex women’s diseases. As an assistant professor at a smaller university, it was an amazing opportunity to spend a week thinking about and discussing current and developing methodology in my research area. The discussion of exploratory data analysis (eda) methods in comparison or compliment to Bayesian model based methods was insightful and of great benefit as I have these discussions often with my K-award mentorship team. The thought leaders in these areas all made very well defined and supported arguments about which methodology was best given specific research questions.


Terry Speed talk at SAMSI

Dr. Terry Speed, UC-Berkeley, and Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research

2014-09-09 12.19.12

Throughout the meeting, it was difficult for most speakers and attendees to define what it means to move beyond Bioinformatics. Many of the speakers and discussions following the speakers exemplified moving beyond bioinformatics while discussing how to move from exploratory data analysis methods to more model based analysis methods, which defines for me the need to move beyond bioinformatics. I appreciate the focus on mathematical and statistical approaches to problems. As a junior faculty member, the discussion about publishing in this area and developing clinically relevant methodologies was very helpful. At the end of the workshop as we broke into working groups, we continued our discussions of data integration. The working group process was a bit overwhelming attempting to find the appropriate fit. Through the various discussions on data integration, it was possible to find a working group that complimented my current research and to which I could be a major contributor. I am eagerly anticipating the next face-to-face meeting of my working group and seeing the outcome of the other working groups.