Lindsay Jones’ passion for science led her to Michigan, Texas and finally back to Huntsville, her hometown. We invite you to “get to know” the biostatistician who was among HudsonAlpha’s earliest employees.
Q: How did you get into biotech/bioinformatics?
A: When I was considering graduate school, I was looking for a field that could use math and science in an exciting and meaningful way. When I learned about the field of biostatistics, I thought it was a wonderful way to apply mathematical approaches to biological research. I then decided to pursue a master’s degree in biostatistics at the University of Michigan.
Q: How did you wind up at HudsonAlpha in Dr. Devin Absher’s lab?
A: I was looking for a job in the Huntsville area and had just begun to hear about HudsonAlpha in late 2007 – before the institute was even up and running. I really liked the idea of HudsonAlpha and the collaborative science it personified. I hoped to work in statistical genetics, so HudsonAlpha seemed like a great fit. I met with Dr. Rick Myers, who later set up an interview for me with Dr. Devin Absher. I started working for Devin a few weeks after he arrived from Stanford in early 2008.
Q: What is your primary role in that department?
A: As a biostatistician/computational biologist, my job is all on the computer. Unlike most of the people in the Absher lab, I don’t actually work in the lab. I see the data that comes out of the lab and run analyses to help us understand this data. In a typical analysis, I start by normalizing the data to try to get rid of any batch effects that come from groupings of samples that were run together. This normalization helps to lessen the effect of “noise” in the data so it is easier to see true biological differences. I then run statistical tests to quantitatively answer the scientific questions behind our research. For example, we may want to test for associations of genomic data with presence or severity of a particular disease or look for changes that occur with aging.
Q: What do you most enjoy about your job?
A: I really enjoy interacting with so many intelligent, interesting people on a day-to-day basis. HudsonAlpha has some of the best and brightest scientists around, and they are also very personable. In addition, the research we do here is cutting-edge and quite exciting. Not only is the work here interesting, but it also has the potential to positively affect the lives of many, many people. Being involved in even a small part of this work makes me feel really fulfilled with my career.
Q: What are some of the research areas at HudsonAlpha that are especially important or meaningful to you?
A: One of the things I like best about the work we do is that a great deal of it involves diseases that are relevant to just about anyone. Although research on rare diseases is still very important, common diseases such as heart disease and cancer have such a widespread impact in this country that any small steps we make towards understanding these diseases affect a large number of people.
Q: What keeps your job fresh day after day after day?
A: Genetics is a rapidly evolving field. Things change so quickly that it is impossible to get bored! Another major factor is the positive, collaborative atmosphere here at HudsonAlpha. Any time I am confused or stuck, there is someone willing to help. All the windows and sunlight in this beautiful building don’t hurt either. I have worked in some places with no windows in the past, and it is amazing how much a little sunlight can help brighten up the workday.
Q: What is next for you?
A: I have been pursuing a PhD in Biostatistics since the fall of 2010 while working here at HudsonAlpha. My dissertation research is nearly complete, and I hope to graduate in December of 2015.
Q: Tell us something we may be surprised to know about you.
A: I grew up owning and riding horses, and I still have three horses that live at my mom and stepfather’s farm in Scottsboro. I ride several times a week and occasionally compete in dressage shows.