Bowdoin professor Hadley Horch, Ph.D., has collaborated with the INBRE Bioinformatics Core this year to advance her research and provide cutting-edge student research experiences and training in computational biology. Horch, her neurobiology students, and our Core bioinformaticians, with the support of Bowdoin’s high-performance computer cluster (HPC), took on the ambitious project of creating the largest existing transcriptome of the field cricket, an animal that has the remarkable ability to neurologically compensate for the loss of a sensory organ. “We’re hunting for the molecular basis for this reorganization,” Horch explains.
Most of Horch’s students had limited or no experience with the kind of computational biology needed for the project, so the students zoomed in to weekly online bioinformatics classes taught by scientists including Joel Graber, co-director of the INBRE Core. Graber says that the bioinformatics skills he’s teaching are only going to become more important in biology and in many other fields.
“Our world is data intensive and it is only going to get more so, so developing the skills and mindset to deal with large data sets is a critical skill.” – Joel Graber, Co-Director, INBRE Bioinformatics Core
Dj Merrill, Bowdoin’s director of high-performance computing, said he’s excited to see the convergence of an outside research facility, a Bowdoin class, and the College’s HPC. “This is the first time we’ve seen the three coming together to actively teach a class,” he said. These types of collaborations are growing as the INBRE network in Maine continues to expand. “We couldn’t do it on our own, for sure,” said Horch.
“I spoke to a few neuroscience Ph.D. candidates and researchers recently, and one of the questions I asked was ‘what is a skill that you didn’t get in college do you wish you had?’ And a lot of them said gaining proficiency in computer coding, especially as technology advances; that you have to have to keep up with the technology,” said Bowdoin undergraduate course participant Lucy O’Sullivan.
Dr. Horch, whose research was funded by INBRE from 2014-2019 ,was subsequently awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue her research. She has served as Bowdoin’s INBRE course director multiple times and continues to mentor numerous research students at Bowdoin in addition to her classroom teaching.
Photo and quote credit to Bowdoin College, Rebecca Goldfine.