Bioinformatics: What? Why? Who? (Video for Bioinformatics 2 Module)
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Bioinformatics: What? Why? Who? (Video for Bioinformatics 2 Module)

High-throughput sequencing technologies
produce huge amounts of data. These types of data can be helpful for
answering many types of questions. For example, what is the best flu vaccine
to prepare for novel flu virus mutations? You can use structural proteomics data to answer this question. What microorganisms live in our armpits or in our mouths? You could use high-throughput sequencing
data that would be compared to a huge group of sequence microbes in a database to answer this question. In what part of the world do my ancestors
live? You could use high-throughput sequencing data to answer this question. What genes are turned on and of as a
worm develops from egg to adult? You could use
transcriptomic data to answer this question. Is there a kindness gene? You can use
high-throughput sequencing data to answer this question. Although these questions address a broad
range of topics, they do have something in common: they all use huge omics data sets.
High-throughput sequencing and other genomic techniques have allowed the
collection of vast amounts of data from DNA in genomes, RNA data from
transcriptomes, and information about all the proteins
produced in organisms proteomes. Bioinformaticians are critical for
designing and running these omics experiments. Bioinformaticians are scientists with
multi-disciplinary training in computer science and biology. They are equipped to answer important
biological questions based on analyzing and interpreting huge biologically based
data sets. What do we mean by huge? A typical single text message
requires 190 bytes to store. An average teenager sends about 3,200
texts a month. A typical whole-genome dataset requires
100 gigabytes. To consume this much memory with
text messages, you would have to save all messages for
over 14,700 years. That’s more than 565
million text messages. Now that is a lot of data! Special high powered computing resources
are needed to deal with the storage, retrieval, processing, and analysis of
all these omics data. Bioinformaticians are able to work on
these high-performance clusters by logging in through their personal computers. Bioinformaticians can also work on
internet-based tools and databases. Science advances by scientists having
access to data and results from other scientists’ experiments. The avalanche of data that genomics
technologies have enabled has require the creation of new databases
and methods to store and retrieve collected data and
finished results. These databases and the algorithms they use are the handiwork of bioinformaticians. The really cool thing is that almost all
of the databases used by scientists are available to anyone in the world who
has web access! But let’s back up. You need to design and run experiments
to generate results that will be stored in these publicly available databases. Let’s review the steps in a typical
bioinformatics experiment. Develop a question. Generate or get data. Develop computer tools to find patterns
in the data that answer the question. Interpret the results. Communicate the results. This process leads to some really
interesting discoveries which can lead, for example, to some important applications for
health and medicine, improving food sources or energy supplies, conserving biodiversity. But not only are
the results from these bioinformatics experiments potentially useful and
interesting, but something about doing bioinformatics
is fun and exciting for bioinformaticians. In
their own words, I use bioinformatics to find RNA zipcodes which are codes hidden in the RNA which tell a cell where the RNA belongs. Bioinformatics is exciting because you find out new things about
the world every time you run your code. I use bioinformatics to study how RNA is modified and made in a cell. Bioinformatics
is exciting because it allows me to design algorithms to tackle some of these very large and complex biological datasets. I use bioinformatics every day to look at DNA
changes and identify why people are sick. Bioinformatics is exciting
because it helps explain why my eyes are brown, why my friend thinks cilantro tastes like soap, and I hope to find out whether or not my baby cousin is
gonna develop a unibrow! I use bioinformatics to
find causes of genetic mutations behind different diseases. Bioinformatics
is exciting because it lets me be really creative in developing methods to solve the
problem by looking at the bigger picture. I use bioinformatics to study the
genomes of domestic and endangered cats. Bioinformatics is exciting because I can make a major impact
in the fight to save endangered species without leaving the comfort or safety of my
home. I use bioinformatics to understand how social insects, like these ants, form large and sophisticated societies through cooperative behavior. Bioinformatics is exciting because it provides me with powerful computational tools to
study how the regulation of genes in the ant brain changes with age, novel environments, and social interactions.

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