Bioinformatics, the field of science in which biology, computer science, and information technology merge to form a single discipline, has rapidly evolved since the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003. It is both the current way of doing molecular biology research, and a rapidly emerging separate discipline. Those working in this discipline draw on the computer sciences, information sciences, and mathematics that bears on biological problems to develop database structures, search algorithms and tools to explore biological data. Bioinformatics research, which makes use of thousands of different Internet-accessible databases, is now intricately woven into “wet bench research” in the life sciences. Scientists engaged in bioinformatics research analyze and manipulate massive datasets in order both to understand and predict experimental results.
In 2008, the UB Libraries joined a handful of other academic libraries with professional staff dedicated to supporting the specialized information needs of the bioinformatics research community. In her role as Bioinformatics and Molecular Biology Information Resource Liaison, Diane C. Rein, Ph.D., M.L.S., provides expert searching, research consultation, resource discovery, and training services. She is also developing new forms of collaborative support for researchers on all three UB campuses and in UB’s affiliated research institutes, centers and hospitals.
Dr. Rein’s “Bioinformatics @ HSL” series combines walk-in workshops, short courses, team-teaching in graduate level courses, and work with individual laboratory groups. To date, over 500 UB faculty, residents, medical fellows, physicians, professional staff and graduate students have been trained in foundational bioinformatics topics such as sequence similarity searching and protein structure modeling. Dr. Rein is also developing new instructional models to support translational bioinformatics initiatives, including use of the Protein DataBank and the resources of the European Bioinformatics Institute.
To support higher level bioinformatics and clinical research, the Health Sciences Library recently hosted several workshops for users of the powerful Genome Browser developed at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Future plans call for Bioinformatics @ HSL to host expert-level instructors from around the world, including the European Bioinformatics Institute and the U.S. National Cancer Institute. Development of a web portal is also planned, with links to useful research tools and techniques for UB’s bioinformatics research community.
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