DNA Quote of the Day: Dr. Terri Beaty

DNA Quote of the Day: Dr. Terri Beaty

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted June 29, 2007 in DNA Quotes and Excerpts

terri beatyThe Spring 2007 issue of Johns Hopkins Public Health Magazine features The Genetic Journey: What’s Next? It was lovely to see all those familiar faces of professors who spent so much time with me during my graduate school days. I’ll be featuring their quotes over the weeks starting with Dr. Terri Beaty, one of my advisors in genetic epidemiology.

I think genetics has been oversold somewhat. Now that you can genotype 100,000 SNPs at a time or 500,000… How are you going to digest that much data? And when you’re doing a million tests, how many times are you going to be wrong? People get carried away. They say, ‘Well, gee, if we can find a gene for Huntington’s disease or cystic fibrosis, can we find a gene for alcoholism or cynicism?’ But they’re not that simple, you know? We are still working on the mechanism so we can understand it. A lot of diseases have become a little more clear, but not perfectly clear.

Perhaps now you can see where part of my attitude comes from!

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(3 comments)


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3 Comments

Comment by Chris

How are you going to digest that much data?

Computers and machine learning algorithms. Bioinformaticians will not be short on job offers anytime soon.

Comment by Hsien

Hi Chris, Good point. Reminds me of this interview I did last year with Euan Adie of Nature:

If I were giving career advice to my son (who’s only four-years-old by the way), I would tell him to consider going into informatics. And if I were really pushy, I’d suggest bioinformatics. With computing power increasing exponentially and the internet offering up overwhelming amounts of information, we need people who can figure out a way to organize it all so the rest of us can actually deal with it. One such person is Stew (pseudonym) of Flags and Lollipops and postgenomic. I’m glad he took time out of his busy schedule working at Nature in the web publishing department to do this genetics interview for us!

Hsien Lei: You work in bioinformatics which I think is the glue that holds the genome revolution together. What kind of role do you think bioinformatics plays?

Euan Adie: I’d agree: modern day genetics relies on vast quantities of data that you couldn’t begin to navigate or process efficiently without software of some sort. Nowadays sequence ‘search engines’ like BLAST and genome browsers like Ensembl are standard tools for genetics researchers. On an even more basic level, without sequence alignment algorithms there’d be no complete genomes to search or browse in the first place.

That’s the data processing side of bioinformatics. It’s also got a role to play in creating new data from the old. By doing clever things with existing information you can, for example, take a novel gene, feed it through machine learning algorithms and get back a predicted function based on the sequences of genes that have already been studied, or model a particular process in a cell, or predict which point mutation out of many on a particular gene is most likely to be responsible for causing some disease.

 
 

[...] to Dr. Terri Beaty, one of my former professors from Hopkins, who received funding from the NIH Genes, Environment and [...]

 

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