Please click on the links below to view the FAQ answers.
How do I apply to the Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics Program?
Why is Zaklab called that?
BIG is a graduate program directed by Peter Park. The application can be found here
Because that's what students started calling it and the name stuck.
In which department is Zaklab?
Is Zaklab part of HST?
Yes, Zak Kohane is an HST-affiliated faculty.
Do you have an open slot for a student?
With very rare exceptions only students who are already in one of the local (Harvard, MIT, BU, NorthEastern) universities can join the lab.
I am a college undergrad studying biology and I want to learn more about bioinformatics. Should I learn how to program?
Do you have an open slot for a post-doctoral fellow?
This answer assumes that your motivation for asking the question is to use state-of-the-art computational tools to advance your biology research. It’s a different set of answers if you want to go deeper and become a biomedical data scientist or only want a high level literature survey, So here are some desiderata in telegraphic form.
Learn how to program. Learning how to program will open up many paths to you for modern science citizenship. However, there are some paths that are more efficient than others and some that are more oriented to biomedicine. Although many of the cool kids work with Python, I am more familiar with the educational offerings for the language R [I welcome suggestions for equivalents in Python].
Introductory Statistics with R by Peter Dalgaard (pdf here:). Go through it chapter by chapter. (Also available on Amazon as a paper book)
If you already know how to program in R and interested in a wholistic approach to data science, then Wickham and Grolemund’s “R for Data Science” will be very useful, See here: https://r4ds.had.co.nz/ and also available on Amazon
Take online courses. Coursera has a lot of good offerings. This one ”Biology Meets Programming: Bioinformatics for Beginners” from this catalog https://www.coursera.org/specializations/bioinformatics
is a good start. It’s in Python. For one in R, I suggest this one: https://www.ebi.ac.uk/training/online/course/embo-practical-course-analysis-high-throughput-seq/introduction-r-and-bioconductor
as it also introduces you the the very useful R package: Bioconductor.
Find a mentor at your school/college/university to take you on to contribute even in a minor way to a biologically-motivated data science project. You’ll get a broader view and a new set of colleagues with exactly the expertise you want. Mentor quality matters and you'll have more fun if it's an interesting project, so shop around. There are several Summer programs for undergraduates. For example, this one at Harvard
, several listed here
, and one here here
See the scrolling window on the right for any available positions.
Should I go to medical school?
Excellent question. I am asked this a lot. Perhaps I'll write my thoughts out in long form soon. But for now:
- Google 'physician burnout'.
- Getting clinical training is going to cost you 4 + 3 years (school + residency) + 3 years (fellowship). If research is your goal then 1 decade is a heck of a detour during your most creative years.
- Average age for R01 (NIH independent grant) for MDs: 42-44 years old.
- Unlikely that doctors in the trenches will change the structural challenges facing medicine today. More likely to be done by disruptive companies and dramatically different leadership.
- If you go through medical training just for the journey, I get it. But 10 years is quite an investment in life tourism.
- If you do go into practice, bless you! We're going to need many smart people to 'take one for the team' and take care of us. It's a noble calling but you risk getting ground down by the 'machine.'