Recorded: 31 May 2003
So, the field I work in is computational biology. And I was trained as a mathematician. It’s what I got my PhD in. There are a lot of people coming into computation biology from computer science or from mathematics. And the main advice I would give to them is that you really have to develop a love of the biology. And in my case, I think it was reading Jim’s book and seeing what a beautiful subject it is that first got my mind working along the lines of the biology end. You can’t really overemphasize the need for that. There are a lot of people who come in and see the field as an opportunity to get computationally interesting questions handed to you and that you can go and work on them and come up with some optimal abstract solution that really doesn’t relate back to the biology. But that kind of work has really not been particularly successful.
And I also think just in terms of maintaining motivation, unless you really develop an appreciation of the biology, it’s hard to stay motivated and focused enough on the particular problem to really come up with solutions that are going to be useful. So that would be my advice to computer scientists and mathematicians.
Philip Green is a professor of genome sciences, an adjunct professor of the Computer Science and Engineering Department at the University of Washington, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, and was recently elected into the National Academy of Sciences.
Green designs software packages which aid in making genetic maps and identifying genes within the genome. He is concerned with constructing computational tools to understand cell functioning at a molecular level. Green has created the program Phred, which manages the data generated by the Human Genome Project and which is being used to help determine the most common variations in human DNA. Green’s laboratory is working to construct a gene-annotated genome sequence. His lab has modified the number of genes thought to be in the human genome—it is substantially fewer than had been previously believed.
Green spoke at the 68th Cold Spring Harbor Symposium focused on the Genome of Homo Sapiens.