December 2011

Creating your own path: a bioinformatics case study

Faced with the reality that the majority of my time would be spent on the job, I was on a quest to find one that I love.

 

As early as elementary school, I was fascinated by science and medicine and was convinced I would become a brain surgeon. By the time I went to college, this changed toward forensics, and by the end of college I was thoroughly confused and realized that I hadn't quite found my greatest interest yet.

Having been fortunate to find a job in a yeast genetics laboratory, I sequenced and ran Westerns for a year and realized that bench work was not my forté. Importantly, though, bench work provided a lot of downtime that I, like most everyone else, used to browse the Internet.

 career_insights 
Ewy Mathé is a staff scientist at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases in Bethesda, Md.

During that time, as I was waiting for my timer to go off, I found my new calling: bioinformatics – specifically, protein-structure modeling. I started calling around to different academic institutions that offered bioinformatics degrees and decided to embark on a Ph.D. at George Mason University. The learning curve was steep (I had no computer-science classes under my belt when I applied), but the field switch was exciting and proved to be the best decision.

Why bioinformatics? 

One of the most exciting aspects of bioinformatics for me is its collaborative nature. Indeed, the field would not exist without large masses of raw data being generated that are of little worth without bioinformatics interpretation.

This dependency requires building a bridge between related yet diverse fields, both linguistically and knowledgewise, and thus provides opportunities to step out of your scope to better understand the challenges at hand. I find this aspect very exciting, as it allows me continuously to learn new biological aspects that I might not necessarily explore on my own.  

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