advances in experimental molecular biology led to the determination
of the human genome sequence. But data mining of the full implication
of the sequence was made possible because of advances in a new field
called bioinformatics. Operating at the intersection of computer science,
statistics and genomics, bioinformatics enables the Human Genome Project
and thousands of other biotechnology projects in labs around the world
to make sense of the massive amount of data they generate.
Managing information from 34,000 sequenced clones to produce
the final 2.7 million base pair sequences in humans represents a scientific
achievement comparable to the gene sequencing techniques themselves.
Bioinformatics shaves years off the discovery process, says
Dr. Bruce Weir, Reynolds Professor of Statistics and Genetics, and
director of NC States new Bioinformatics Research Center (BRC).
The center opened this year on NC States Centennial Campus,
adjacent to the Genome Research Laboratory, the Fungal Genomics Laboratory,
the Forest Biotechnology Laboratory and other genomics research programs.
Key to the center is the involvement and training of graduate students.
Newsweek magazine (April 30, 2000) reports an estimate that the
bioinformatics industry will need 20,000 highly trained workers by
2005a new brand of super-geek who understands the complex tongues
of biology, statistics and computer science. Because of the
concentration of agriculture and medical research companies in the
Triangle, hiring is especially competitive here.
With the largest bioinformatics degree program in the country, NC
State is one of the worlds major training centers for bioinformaticians.
Our students are being snapped up by industry as fast as we
can train them, says Weir. NC States Department of Statistics
also offers a Summer Institute in Statistical Genetics, funded by
the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health
(NIH). The Summer Institute is open to students worldwide and is taught
by an internationally distinguished faculty from academia and industry.
Weir also serves as the director of the universitys Statistical
and Quantitative Genetics Research Program. Industry funding for this
program has doubled during the past five years. A $6 million grant
from NIH in January marked the 42nd year of continuous NIH funding
for NC State research in statistical and quantitative genetics, and
brings total NIH funding for the program to more than $25 million.
Its a remarkable show of confidence by NIH in the excellence
of our statistics and genetics faculty, says Chancellor Marye
Anne Fox. Because of world-class published research, NC States
bioinformatics program was ready when DNA research became the genome
As both a service and educational strategy, the BRC maintains an open
invitation to faculty and industry researchers to bring bioinformatics
problems to the groups coffee break any day at 10 a.m. Its
a very interesting way to involve students in the creative process
as we toss around ideas for solutions, says graduate student
Errol Strain, working in the BRC under a training grant from the National
Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The 50 faculty, staff and students at the BRC perform basic research
and interact with producers of data, both on and off campus. The mission
of the center is to develop and implement methods for the management
and interpretation of genomic datawith an emphasis on agriculture,
forestry and veterinary medicine. By working closely with other groups
at NC State, and with research organizations and companies in the
Research Triangle area and beyond, the BRC plays a key role in ensuring
that the genome revolution translates into benefits for the citizens
of North Carolina.
more information, please visit http://bioinformatics.ncsu.edu/