101 questions with a bioinformatician #16: Melissa Wilson Sayres

This post is part of a series that interviews some notable bioinformaticians to get their views on various aspects of bioinformatics research. Hopefully these answers will prove useful to others in the field, especially to those who are just starting their bioinformatics careers.

Melissa Wilson Sayres is Assistant Professor of Genomics, Evolution, and Bioinformatics in the School of Life Sciences and The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University. Her lab is interested in the evolution of sex chromosomes among other topics that relate to genome evolution and comparative genomics.

I applaud Melissa for clearly setting out both her expectations of people that join her lab in addition to listing her responsibilities to her lab members. I wish more PIs were as communicative about this, though I would add an expectation for grad students: 'I will not leave food — especially cheese — on, in, or near my computer'.

You can find out more about Melissa by visiting her (well documented) lab page, checking out her mathbionerd blog, or by following her on twitter (@mwilsonsayres). And now, on to the 101 questions...



001. What's something that you enjoy about current bioinformatics research?

That we can use computers to collect, analyze, and learn new things about our biology and evolutionary history.


010. What's something that you *don't* enjoy about current  bioinformatics research?

That there isn't a straightforward way to get into it. Some people come from computer science and may feel intimidated about learning the biology. Some come from biology and are intimidated by learning to program. Some (like myself) come from some other background, and learn both! Although there are a few collegiate bioinformatics programs, it is my impression that many schools do not have the kinds of background courses that students need in order to break into bioinformatics. Many of us are self-taught


011. If you could go back in time and visit yourself as an 18 year old, what single piece of advice would you give yourself to help your future bioinformatics career?

Learn a programming language


100. What's your all-time favorite piece of bioinformatics software, and why?

I really like Galaxy, because it has the GUI-based format for newbies, as well as the command-line option for those who prefer it, and it makes computational biology easier to reproduce.


101. IUPAC describes a set of 18 single-character nucleotide codes that can represent a DNA base: which one best reflects your personality?

Y! Because the sex chromosomes are the most interesting (and there is no 'X' nucleotide ambiguity code).