Community invited to discover bioinformatics at UA Little Rock

Dr. David Ussery

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock will host a bioinformatics day on Friday, April 14, for students, faculty, and the public to learn more about the growing field of bioinformatics. 

The discovery day will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday, April 14, in the Donaghey Student Center on the UA Little Rock campus.

The event is free and open to the public. High school and college students and educators are encouraged to attend to learn about the educational resources and research and career opportunities available in the field of bioinformatics. Lunch will be provided.

Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary science that combines life sciences, computer and information sciences, statistics, mathematics, and engineering to analyze and interpret biological data.

Dr. David Ussery, who in February was named the Helen Adams & Arkansas Research Alliance endowed chair in biomedical informatics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, will serve as the keynote speaker. He will talk about the history of genomics, his research, and its uses in bioinformatics.

In biomedical informatics, computational approaches are used to assess and analyze large sets of medical and public health data for patient care and research programs, including sequence information such as genetics and genomic data.

Ussery’s research includes genome sequencing through low-cost, high-output technology, which can helptrack emerging infections. He is working with the Arkansas Department of Health to sequence the DNA of mosquitoes to track outbreaks of the Zika virus.

Dr. Elizabeth Pierce, chair of the UA Little Rock Department of Information Science, created the event to showcase the research and career opportunities in the ever-growing field of bioinformatics.

“Bioinformatics is a tremendous growth area for the state of Arkansas,” Pierce said. “I wanted to get the word out to students that bioinformatics is not just for medical applications. It can be used whenever you are dealing with living organisms.”

Pierce brought in a range of speakers to show students how big data is being used in multiple disciplines.

UA Little Rock faculty and students will showcase their bioinformatics research in gene therapy, climate change, drug development, preventative medicine, forensic analysis, alternative energy sources, and many more areas.

The event will also feature an ecology and conservation bio data panel. Members include Bill Holimon from the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Scott Woolbright from the UA Little Rock Department of Biology, Justin Stroman from Arkansas Game and Fish, and Don Bragg from the U.S. Forest Service.

Bragg will also serve as one of two lunch speakers. He will speak about the use of national forestry data.

In addition, David Luneau, associate professor in the UA Little Rock Department of Engineering Technology, will speak about his work with scientists to create technology for monitoring wildlife.

Bioinformatics Discovery Day is supported by the Arkansas IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence Grant.

Visit the Bioinformatics Discovery Day website for a schedule of events and to register for the event.

In the upper right photo is Dr. David Ussery, Helen Adams & Arkansas Research Alliance endowed chair in biomedical informatics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, who will serve as the keynote speaker of Bioinformatics Discovery Day. Photo courtesy of University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. 

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