What is your name?
What is your professional title?
Director of Bioinformatics and Assistant Professor of Pathology, Lurie Children's Hospital, Northwestern University
How did you decide to enter the field/What (or who) brought you into the field?
During my undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering, I learned about the new emerging field of Computational biology. I fell in love with it and decided to pursue my Masters and then my PhD in Computational Biology. For this, I joined Carnegie Mellon University. I specialized in Computational Genomics and did some work in next generation sequencing (NGS) when it was very new. My PhD was interdisciplinary, and I did my own experiments to study microRNAs in echinoderm embryos. This specifically gave me the understanding of molecular biology, which is necessary today as I help to design experiments. After my PhD, I joined the Broad Institute, where I increased my knowledge of various NGS technologies. When it was time to move from that position, I was looking for positions with a direct connection to healthcare. That is when I came across a posting at the Genomic and Molecular Pathology division at the University of Chicago, where I was for more than 4 years. I moved to Lurie Children's Hospital as a Faculty member and Director of Bioinformatics (Pathology) in 2018.
What do you do? How would you describe your role?
I lead the bioinformatics team to design, implement, support and innovate computational methods and pipelines for the molecular diagnostics laboratory at the hospital. My team also supports other multi-omics initiatives and collaborative research in pathology. Our work includes clinical and research projects on high throughput data of all types.
How does your work help patients?
The algorithms and pipelines we design are used on a daily basis in clinical assays run in molecular diagnostics, both somatic and germline. Our work determines the sensitivity and specificity of the NGS assays, which in turn determines the results of the assay. We also support the lab informatics system for patient and result tracking.
What degree(s) and/or training did you receive to achieve your position?
I have an undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering and a PhD in Computational Biology.
What is the greatest challenge you face in your work?
The clinical field is still not caught up in the area of good software engineering practices for the software used. My main challenge includes training, teaching and creating awareness about such practices, and speaking the same language during discussions with purely computational or purely experimental peers.
What is the best part of your work as you see it? (most interesting, fun…)
The best part is the challenge of solving problems, whether it is as small as deciding what metrics should be used to determine the QC success of a sample, or as large as figuring out how to analyze a cohort of patients for a research study. I love programming and I am happiest when coding.
What AMP resources/courses have helped you advance your career?
I find the webcasts to be the extremely current. They help me stay up-to-date.
In your opinion, what are the most valuable aspects of AMP membership?
The most valuable aspect of AMP membership is access to a very engaged community, journal and the annual meeting. This is the place where collaborations are born with the leading minds in the field.