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Minting New Bioinformaticists


We enjoyed very much Nat Goodman’s article, “Bioinformatics U” (IT Guy, Sept. 2001). Although the focus was post-graduate studies, we (at a small, undergrad, liberal arts college) were nodding our heads in agreement. For the last three years we have been setting up undergraduate collaborations between our genetics class and algorithms class for the purpose of giving undergraduates firsthand experience with writing new software for new hypotheses in genomics.

We teach our students some Blast too and give them practice with negotiating around NCBI; however, we feel that the designing and implementing of new genomics software in collaboration with biologists is an essential part of bioinformatics training. In fact, the most exciting thing going on in genomics right now, in our opinions, is the design of new tools. Too often biologists and computer scientists are getting their training in sequence analysis apart from each other — with little cross-disciplinary communication. Biologists in particular can be guilty of thinking that pre-existing programs (e.g. Blast) map on to all of their research questions.

Some newly minted bioinformaticists may not be completely aware of what a creative process it is to write software with lots of direct dialogue with biologists who will be using it. One aspect of our classroom work is to help bridge communication gaps between our computer science majors and our biology majors — very useful for future collaborations in research or industry.

Although an undergraduate research initiative in genomics might not be a usual focus for Genome Technology, you might consider looking at us. In some ways we may be a little ahead of times in how we are initiating our undergrads into genomics research.

Betsey Dyer, Biology, Mark LeBlanc, Computer Science, Wheaton College


I noticed that Media Cybernetics was not listed as a company that had been acquired in the last 12 months (Blunt End, Sept. 2001). On July 2 we were acquired by Roper Industries for approximately $17 million. While our core business is imaging, over half of that business is in the life sciences. Over 10 percent involves molecular imaging (gel, blot, and microarray analysis). I guess it doesn’t hurt to be underestimated by our competition, but we would like to have some recognition on occasion.

On another subject, when are you planning to publish an article on the various microarray analysis software packages available in the market?

Dean Sequera,Vice President, Marketing & Product Development,

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