Every day, all over the world, researchers, hospitals and even personal mobile devices are generating massive quantities of biomedical data. Now that we’re in the era of Big Data, the challenge is how to organize, analyze and coordinate all that information, and ultimately to mine it for clues to the genetic and environmental causes of human disease.
Big academic research institutions have the infrastructure and expertise to take advantage of Big Data; that’s less likely to be the case at smaller, less research-intensive colleges and universities.
In an effort to address this disparity, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health has made several Big Data training grants, including a three-year, $390,000 grant to Jackson Laboratory Associate Professor Jeffrey Chuang, Ph.D., for a course called “Big Genomic Data Skills Training for Professors”.
Chuang says, “We hope to shift the focus of undergraduate training towards big data skills and raise the competencies of the biomedical workforce, and engage young scientists in the shared quest to manage and leverage biomedical big data. We're reaching out to undergraduate college and regional university faculty across biology, mathematics and computer science departments.”
The workshop will include five modules:
- Introduction to Biology Big Data Resources and Data Wrangling: an overview of big-data resources important to address mammalian biomedical problems, including accessing, wrangling and interpreting big genomic datasets.
- Genomics Data Processing: a guide to the computational processing steps associated with all of the major types of sequencing experiments.
- Evaluation of Data Processing: exercises in which participants process multiple datasets together using graphical interfaces.
- Integration of Heterogeneous Genomic Data: practice in combined analysis across diverse technological platforms and protocols.
- Integration of Genomic and Phenotypic Data: how to combine genomic information with clinical information to better predict health outcomes and identify precision treatments, including for cancer patients.
The upcoming program will also include a module on responsible conduct of research, teaching the principles of documenting and tracking data, sharing data and creating user-friendly data portals, and case studies on failures or weakness in data analyses.
Beyond the course itself, JAX is building a Computational Biology Big Data curriculum for workshop participants to use when teaching big data skills at their home institutions. JAX will also provide online, real-time support for course participants implementing big data skills courses at their home institutions.
A dynamic new annual “Big Data Challenge,” a competitive big-data analysis problem, will be offered to all institutions that implement big data skills training in undergraduate courses. The data challenge will offer research-based experience to undergraduates across participating institutions.
Application for “Big Genomic Data Skills Training for Professors” closes on Friday, Feb. 5. For more information, please contact JAX Director of Courses and Conferences Charles Wray, Ph.D.