Manager, Principal Investigator
During the early portion of my career, I pursued my passion in biology primarily as a research biologist, doing work at the bench and in the lab. After earning a BA in biology, I spent two years as a protein biochemist, five years as a pure bacterial geneticist, two years doing molecular biology of ciliated protozoa, five years doing molecular evolution of ciliated protozoa (including cell biology and genomics, while operating a graduate student teaching lab), and have now spent more than six years researching genomics and molecular evolution. This included one almost-complete thesis on the regulation of B12 biosynthesis by Salmonella, which ended when what I was supposed to find didn’t exist, and then a second complete thesis—where once again what I was supposed to find didn’t exist. This is not a great way to get a thesis. Much of my experience has been in general biology departments, and I’ve always taken an active interest in ecological and behavioral studies—my brother Dan and sister Pat are both faculty ecologists. But rather by chance, my PhD is in Oncological Sciences, studying ciliates.
In all but my earliest work, there has been a significant bioinformatics component; in fact, my professional development has paralleled the growing field of sequencing and genomics. The first postdoc I worked with, just after I got my BA, Marilyn Kehry, got her PhD in Lee Hood’s Caltech lab, sequencing immunoglobin genes using the Maxam-Gilbert method, the first significant sequencing method. By the time I started ciliate biology, I was generating dozens of sequencing gels, reading them by hand, and basing my papers on this sequence. Soon enough, I was sending sequencing out to a service that used ABI capillary instruments and emailed me the results. Craig Venter revolutionized genomic sequencing around this time, and my early postdoctoral work included proposing genomics projects (including BAC libraries) and analyzing genomic data. By now the research community has progressed through second-generation sequencing methods, and at NCGAS we often consult with clients regarding the combination of second- and third-generation methods they should use—a constantly moving target!
The purpose of NCGAS is largely to empowering people: enabling research scientists to take advantage of both IU and national infrastructure. By providing appropriate clusters and curated software sets, we give researchers access to resources they’ve never before had. NCGAS counts its direct work with researchers as they learn to use these new tools, and opportunities for outreach, as integral to our mission. While my work with NCGAS has expanded the ways in which I can connect with and empower other scientists, I have taken great joy throughout my career in mentoring young scientists, including high school, undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral student researchers—many of them women.
What I am interested in
I still like ciliated protists a lot. There is a Tetrahymena project Bhavya and Sheri are working on, and I get to tell them odd facts about their biology. Generally, I like protists—they are so understudied. I’ve done quite a bit of metagenomic work with Yuzhen Ye and her research group, again playing the biologist to their informatics.
Best part of working for NCGAS
We are paid to assist other scientists for free. They each have unique projects, and we get to help them. And that is mostly the result of my super-talented team: Carrie Ganote, Sheri Sanders, and Bhavya Papudeshi. I do a bit too much administration these days, but am still some help with the biological side of questions. I suppose writing grants is my least favorite part—make it easier on us, acknowledge us and send us pictures and stories!
In Utah, I hiked, camped and white water rafted—I had my own boat, still in storage—not a lot of whitewater or mountains in Indiana. As I left Utah, I was President-elect of the Utah Orchid Society. Now I garden a lot and am VP of the Bloomington Winter Farmers Market Board.