Collaborative Bioinformatics Training

While bioinformatics, the science of collecting and analyzing complex biological data, has become an essential tool in biology, the potential for extracting information vastly exceeds the number of biologists skilled at mining it. 

The Bioinformatics Core has as its primary mission the goal to help scientists gain skills at data mining. The Core leverages relevant skills and experience across the Northeast IDeA region through the NorthEast Bioinformatics Collaborative (NEBC), which has designed and offered multiple bioinformatics courses and workshops.

This year the Core continues to expand its network of expertise and make available unique and evolving training events, courses, and opportunities for students and faculty in IDeA programs. In July, two training courses were offered virtually and attended by over 50 faculty and students from around the country.

The Bioinformatics T3 – Train the Trainer course is geared toward college and university instructors. The Course Director is W. Kelley Thomas, Ph.D., the director of the New Hampshire INBRE Bioinformatics Core.

“The T-3 course was the first time I’d ever done bioinformatics. It was a steep learning curve for me, but the faculty did a great job at making sure no one was left behind. The faculty helped make the skills for analyzing genomic information readily accessible.” –  Melody Neely, Ph.D., INBRE course faculty for the University of Maine Honors College

Applied Bioinformatics has been offered since 2013 to graduate students, post-doctoral trainees and researchers interested in incorporating bioinformatics into their studies. An updated and extended version of the course – Reproducible and FAIR Bioinformatics Analysis of Omics Data – will be held at the MDI Biological Laboratory in July 2021. The Course is led by COBRE Directors at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth – Thomas Hampton, Ph.D. and Bruce Stanton, Ph.D. – and incorporates numerous faculty from across the region.

Another Core offering is the MINOTA Workshop, in its second year, which teaches students about the most commonly used tools and methods for building and analyzing transcriptomes.

This year’s MINOTA workshop, designed by Core Co-Director Joel Graber, Ph.D. and Core staff, was attended by 17 participants, including 7 teaching or research faculty, a research postdoctoral fellow, a core manager, 7 graduate students, and an undergraduate student. All five states in the Northeast IDeA region were represented, and participants joined the course from 12 different home institutions.

“While the primary goal of the workshop was to explore the process of transcriptome analysis, we also aimed to cultivate a growing community that was linked by the necessity for these tools, and to provide a central resource for further education and developmental needs.”  – Nathaniel Maki, Bioinformatics Training Specialist

Read a recent blog post about MINOTA by Bioinformatics Training Specialist Nathaniel Maki here.

In addition to group training opportunities, the Bioinformatics Core also provides focused, individualized mentoring to advanced undergraduate students at Maine INBRE partner institutions through the Bioinformatics Scholars Program. The program specifically matches the student with a faculty member at their home institution and a member of the Bioinformatics Core staff. 

Matthew Cox, an undergraduate student at the Honors College at UMaine, is a Bioinformatics Scholar this year working with INBRE Project Leader Sally Molloy, Ph.D., and Core Co-Director Ben King, Ph.D., to characterize gene expression of a phage known to alter drug resistance in pathogenic mycobacteria.

“The connections with faculty and their insights on this kind of research have been invaluable, and in what has become a very uncertain future they’ve laid out a critical foundation that consistently pushes me to become a better scientist in the academic community.” – Matthew Cox, undergraduate student at the University of Maine Honors College