Inside Iowa State
May 21, 1999
A biologist's best friend
Each year the bumper crop of new plant genetic information gets larger. Dealing with all this data is "like learning to drink from a fire hose," said ISU mathematician Dan Ashlock. In short, biologists need help.
That's why the 1998 Iowa Legislature funded hiring new faculty with expertise in computational biology, or bioinformatics. The zoology and genetics department has hired three such faculty.
Experts in bioinformatics are data wranglers. They make it easier to organize, store, cross-reference and access huge amounts of data, genetic code, 3D images and statistics. More importantly, they analyze and extract meaning from it all, providing clues for researchers.
Department chair Duane Enger said the expertise will lead to a new graduate major in bioinformatics, and already has brought more ISU interactions with industry.
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