101 questions with a bioinformatician #22: Danielle Lemay

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.

Danielle Lemay is a Faculty member at the UC Davis Genome Center (hmm, sounds familiar). If she was ever to receive an honorary knighthood from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, it would no doubt be described for services to milk genomics. This is because Danielle is the master of all things milk. What's in milk? How is it made? How does it differ between species? What are the benefits of breastfeeding over use of formula? How does milk establish a healthy gut microbiome in infants? These are just some of the topics that she is investigating.

She is also the founder and Executive Editor of SPLASH! milk science update, the monthly e-newletter of the International Milk Genomics Consortium.

You can find out more about Danielle by visiting her lab's website. And now, on to the 101 questions...

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

I like that anybody can get started with minimal resources.

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

It's far more time-consuming than non-bioinformaticians would guess.

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

Ooh, tough one. When I was 18, I was surrounded by people with a lot more programming experience (at MIT) and I struggled with imposter syndrome. So probably the most important bit of advice would be to not compare one's coding ability to another. It will get better with practice and there is so much more to being a bioinformatician, like understanding biology and working with other people and asking the right questions.

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

My favorite software of the moment is DIAMOND because it is 20,000x faster than BLASTX. It saved my skin recently when I needed preliminary data for a grant within a few days.

My all-time favorite software is the UCSC Genome Browser. It enables users to visualize their private DNA sequence-based data in the context of all kinds of other data sets that have been mapped to DNA sequence. It's the shovel that has made much of my gold-digging possible. But I do have a conflict of interest: my all-time favorite person (and spouse) has been developing and maintaining it since 2001.

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

That's easy: N. Whether in my professional or personal life, I've never neatly fit into a box. My identity can't be called, even by folks who think they know me.