From Brazil To Costa Rica, Here’s What’s Happening In The Bioinformatics Community of Latin America - Highlights From Omics Research Symposium March 2022

Bioinformatics has recently emerged as an important field in response to the accelerating demand for a flexible means of storing, managing, and querying biological data. From fighting tropical diseases, such as the Zika virus to improving sustainable food production, bioinformatics and data science have the potential to address several of the challenges that Latin America is presently facing. The first step is to facilitate bioinformatics training for students and researchers of the scientific community. During March 2022 Omics Research Symposium, we brought together some of the active figures who are currently involved in educating and empowering the next generation of data-driven biologists in Latin America. Here are some of the key takeaways from their talks –

 

Dr. Georgios Joannis Pappas Júnior, Associate Professor, University of Brasilia, Brazil began the session with a powerful message – “Data is only useful if we can turn them into knowledge that can be understood”. Coming from a strong biology background, he also shared his tips and tricks on how he made his way into bioinformatics without any formal training. One way is to have deep knowledge in one discipline and working fluency in several others. Upon discussing about the challenges and opportunities of bioinformatics education in Latin America, he highlighted the limited opportunities for bioinformatics in Brazil due to which students go abroad to find a career in this field. To end the session on a positive note, Dr. Georgios shared his continuous effort to create and adapt the learning curriculum based on student background - undergraduate, graduate, and research students as the field continues to grow. To learn about how he is heading the computational genomics group and teaching bioinformatics courses.

 

From the Caribbean to Massachusetts, Dr. Gabriel Golzcer-Gatti, Data Scientist at CAMP4 Therapeutics, Cambridge, USA shared his experience of how he spent his childhood years on Caribbean Island off the coast of Venezuela, Margarita Island to working as a lead bioinformatician for the project alongside Dr. Hongshan Guo and his team. They worked on how NR4A1 regulates the expression and suppresses replication stress in cancer. He also discussed the importance of circulating tumor cells for studying metastasis and gave an in-depth explanation of the identification and mechanism of how NR4A1 regulates the expression of immediate early genes, suppressing replication stress in cancer. Outside the professional setting, Dr. Gabriel leads a charity for his alma mater in Venezuela, supporting education and research for current and future generations of Latin American scientists. To learn how he makes use of data science to uncover mysteries of biological data in the field of gene regulation and epigenomics.

 

 

As a graduate student in Microbiology at the University of Costa Rica, Mr. Silver Ceballos, Co-Founder of Rosalind Innovations, Costa Rica shared his vision behind establishing Rosalind Innovations, a STEM education company that is dedicated to creating tools and programs for school and college youth, teachers, and professionals in the natural and health sciences. He is currently working at the Center for Research in Cellular and Molecular Biology, together with the Host-Microorganism Symbiosis Research Group led by Dr. Adrián Pinto-Tomás.  Having a professional interest in microbial ecology, bioprospecting, symbiosis, secondary metabolite biosynthesis, and synthetic biology, and almost 10 years of being involved in biological sciences research projects, he soon recognized the need for incorporating bioinformatics training in the education system. He discussed how he is addressing the challenges of bioinformatics education in Costa Rica by teaching students important bioinformatics concepts such as databases and management for biological information, genetics, evolution, and phylogenetics. To learn more about how he and his team at Rosalind Innovations are breaking barriers for scientific education in LATAM.

 

 

 

Owing to the emerging impact of bioinformatics and computational biology, Mr. Piero Beraun Gasco, an undergraduate student in Bioengineering from the UTEC University of Engineering and Technology and a Bioinformatician at MikuyTec, Lima, Peru discussed his experience regarding finding opportunities during the pandemic as a student. He also shared how he transitioned from the role of a wet lab intern to a bioinformatician, as he developed an interest in synthetic biology and its applications in the environment and space travel. Currently, he is working on an astrobiology project that will fly to the Tiangong Space Station at the end of 2022. Selected as one of the 100 Leaders in Biotechnology in Latin America by Allbiotec, he also shared how is presently striving to educate and train students by conducting classes on synthetic biology and computational biology in Spanish as not many people spoke or read English.

 

In the next part of the symposium, we heard from experts exchanging their viewpoints on bioinformatics education and the present challenges that are required to be addressed. Dr. Puragra (Raja) Guhathakurta, Professor of Astronomy & Astrophysics, UC Santa Cruz shed light on Creating Equity in STEAM (CrEST) umbrella program initiatives for creating equity in Science, Technology, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM). He also shared insights on how ReComBio - R and Research in Computational Biology, Science Internship Program (SIP), and Global Sphere Network help in opening up new talent pools. Further, Dr. Gepoliano Chaves, Postdoctoral Scholar, University of Chicago discussed how computational biology programs can be used to understand human diseases. He emphasized the topics spoken by Dr. Puragra and also briefly talked about the promising field of liquid biopsies as biomarkers. Finally, Ms. Maria Victoria Luz, B.S. in Biotechnology, University of Brasilia discussed how she and her team are making use of synthetic biology to solve the pressing issues of leaching in Brazil.  

 

A few panel question and answer sessions were also presented about - “Why is there a gap between academia and students wishing to join research?”. Dr. Puragra (Raja) Guhathakurta expressed his view that it is tempting to think the journey towards research is linear, however, this is a misconception - anyone can plug in. Further, Dr. Gepoliano Chaves expressed his views on the topic - “What are we missing out on when we do not have genomic data from countries who do not have facilities to get their genome sequence?”. He used the example of Brazil and shared that we will be missing out on the high degree of diversity existing even with itself like other underrepresented countries like Africa, India, etc. Finally, upon asking Ms. Maria Victoria Luz - “If you were to focus on a single job what would it be?” She answered that she enjoys working with industries to provide sustainable bioinformatics solutions.

 

 

Were you not able to attend the March 2022 Omics Research Symposium? Don’t worry! Another one is coming up at the end of August:

 

Omics Research Sympsoium

 

This August, we are organizing the third Omics Research Symposium Fall- 2022 bringing together students, researchers, faculty, and industry professionals to discuss recent advances in Omics Data and Computational Biology (Bioinformatics).

 

The online symposium will be held from August 30 - August 31, 2022 and will highlight the challenges, opportunities, and applications of bioinformatics and data science in life sciences education, research, and industry through keynote lectures, panel discussions, and a poster presentation competition. 

 

By joining the symposium, students and researchers will learn about advances in enabling technologies, career opportunities in bioinformatics, project showcase, and poster competition, translational science hackathon: microbiome and health, and getting involved: finding labs, programs, and mentors. 

 

You will also get an opportunity to explore collaborative projects, internships, and careers with an international team of experts and mentors in research domains of academia and industry. You will also learn about the diversity of projects conducted in all life sciences with big data – from nutrition to biotechnology and even forensic science! Importantly, you will also get to know the individuals who lead such projects and hear about their stories.

 

Needless, to say, symposium workshops are also a great time to get hands-on practice in computational biology and data science!  To learn more about the theme, keynote speakers, and panelists of the symposium, visit – https://edu.omicslogic.com/omics-research-symposium-august-2022 

 

Day 1 of the Omics Research Symposium will be conducted on the 30th of August 2022. The first day of the symposium will cover recent advances and opportunities in academic research including precision medicine, machine learning for biomedical data, infectious diseases, and much more. Day 2 of the Omics Research Symposium will be conducted on the 31st of August 2022. This will cover the changing landscape of bioinformatic applications in a diverse range of industries including beauty, astrobiology, forensic science, and lots more. To learn about the symposium schedule, visit – 

https://edu.omicslogic.com/omics-research-symposium-aug-2022-schedule 

To learn about the symposium schedule and speaker sessions, visit – https://edu.omicslogic.com/omics-research-symposium-august-2022 

 

If you are still wondering why and how can one make the most out of attending a research symposium, check out our other blogs:

 

  1. 7 Reasons Why You Should Attend Omics Research Symposium 2022 – https://edu.omicslogic.com/blog/7-reasons-why-you-should-attend-a-research-symposium 
  2. Omics Research Symposium 2022: What to expect and How to get involved? – https://edu.omicslogic.com/blog/omics-research-symposium-2022