Bioinformatics: Environmental Metagenomics

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Date(s) - Sunday, April 28, 2019
3:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Biotech Without Borders

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Bioinformatics for environmental metagenomics:

We are increasingly aware of the invisible and ubiquitous microbial component of our lives – in and on our bodies, in our environment. But, how do you actually measure that? What if you wanted to find out what bacteria are living around you? In this workshop we will learn the methods for identifying microbial species with DNA sequencing data, and understand what their functions are and how that can inform decisions or urban design. 

We will use the Pathomap dataset and each participant will obtain the metagenomic sequences of their favorite subway station. We will explain the file formats used for sequencing data and how to manipulate them, and gain hands-on experience on using the computational tools to identify bacterial species and their genes with that data, and visualize the results.


About the instructor:

Dr. Elizabeth Hénaff is a computational biologist and designer. Her academic trajectory started with a Bachelors in Computer Science, followed by a Master’s in Plant Biology (both from UT Austin) and a PhD in Bioinformatics from the University of Barcelona. At the center of her research is a fascination with the way living beings interact with their environment. This inquiry has produced a body of work that ranges from scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals, to projects with landscape architects, to working as an artist in environments from SVA to the MIT Media Lab. She has made contributions to understanding how plants respond to the force of gravity, how genome structure changes in response to stress, and most recently has turned her attention to the ubiquitous and invisible microbial component of our environment.

Some recent highlights include the design for the bioremediation of a local toxic Superfund site which won a design competition, had a gallery exhibit, and a scientific publication. Her work with the MIT Media Lab led to the development of a novel approach to urban microbiome sampling using honeybees, an exhibit at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, and a curriculum for international workshops. She has consistently makes the tools – software, wetware, hardware – needed to answer her research questions. She currently holds an Assistant Professor position in the Integrated Digital Media department at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering in New York City, where she teaches courses in biodesign.