Keywords: andrew dunford
Description: I originally became a student in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology largely by the blunt logic that I was torn between biology and chemistry, and wished to combine them, and found that it was
I originally became a student in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology largely by the blunt logic that I was torn between biology and chemistry, and wished to combine them, and found that it was probably the best interdisciplinary fields that would have related to my interests. I was always a good student and greatly enjoyed the course material. By my sophomore year, I had joined Dr. Maura Cannon's research lab as an undergrad.
Nevertheless, I was at a loss of what to do with my Summer before senior year. As I was looking through the NSF's list of Research Experiences for Undergraduates, the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell's bioinformatics internship really stuck out as something that would really interest me, as it very well integrated my knowledge and interest in computers, plant biology, and molecular biology in general. While there I was taught about the most modern DNA and RNA sequencing techniques, but more importantly I got to use the bioinformatics software that is able to take such extensive data and align and assemble it in a way that is useful for less informatics-oriented bioinformatics scientist.
My project involved transcriptomic assembly of different tomato species and tissues. Essentially the raw data I was given contained sequences of transcripts that were sequenced from the given samples, and I had to align it to the genome so that an interface could be developed that could purvey important information such as whether a given gene is expressed, at what level, and whether there are any sequences differences between this transcript and the reference genome. I may have been working with tomatoes for this project, but the techniques learned could essentially be applied to any organism due to the universal nature of transcription.
From this experience I learned that bioinformatics is definitely a field I could do more in. It requires a lot of computer work, and but not necessarily lab work (In fact, there was no lab portion to my internship), which may not be the right cup of tea for many biochemists. Even if bioinformatics is not the field I end up specializing in the long run, I believe knowledge of this field will help me better understand the data resources I will have to use as a molecular biologists, and allow me to better integrate with bioinformaticists or other computational biology specialists I may work with.