Working with the SIB

In Switzerland, the air is cold and clean, the food is expensive and the people seem to be friendly.

My new postdoctoral position came with a shiny new affiliation to the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB), and I found myself invited to the SIB days conference before  had even begun working – a slightly embarrassing conversation starter when people ask who you work with and you don’t know.

The reason for this confusion being, of course, that working for the SIB means being under the banner of a Group Leader. A wise and extremely computer literate young(ish) guru who provides you with advice, contacts, and most importantly, a MAC. These mighty Bioinformaticians run huge labs of researchers who range from the biologist who can hold there own with a Markov Model to the dedicated computer scientists who may not know what a gene does exactly but can tell you exactly how it is programmed into their databases and where the memory cache would be most efficient in order to retrieve complex queries.

Working with a group leader does not necessarily mean a lot of contact with them, as your lab head does not have to be your group leader. Hence my not knowing who my group leader was.

The conference began with a long talk on our duties; a bizarrely motivating experience where we were treated like a special operations unit who have been tasked with being deployed (or embedded as we say here) into the most inhospitable of biology labs in order to educate, advise and code. Fortunately this mission statement has the desired effect of making you want to immediately find yourself a wet-lab worker and explain in fine detail how you could make their data entries more efficient and how it is your duty, responsibility and most desperate desire to do so.

Basically they make you feel special.

With this in mind – now that it has finally been confirmed that I am special – I will start to update more regularly with anything that I have learned that might be worthwhile to others.

Unfortunately, seemingly as with most of science, there is never a perfect way of doing something. Or anything really. But perhaps knowing how this massive collective of Swiss Bioinformaticians do things might make others feel special too.


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