By Leo Barolo
For the second consecutive year, the Center for Genomic Science Innovation (CGSI) hosted its annual Genomics Retreat in June, where CGSI members, affiliates, students, and postdocs gathered for a day of seminars, posters, and scientific mingling. One of the events was a break-out session to discuss the needs and opportunities for UW-Madison genomics.
A common theme from the breakout session was the desire to have more connection, collaboration, and training opportunities centered on genomics. In response, CGSI has partnered with other groups on campus to develop new tools.
“The retreat was a great event to bring campus genomicists together,” said CGSI Director Audrey Gasch. “We’re really excited about ideas from the retreat and new partnerships that are enacting those ideas.”
Data Science Hub partnership
One partnership is with the Data Science Hub, a campus resource in the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery that helps researchers learn data science skills and apply them in their research.
The Hub already offers several hands-on workshops every year, such as the “Data Carpentry – Genomics” workshop that covers skills in Unix shell and R. Additionally, they host the less formal “Coding Meetup” twice a week, where facilitators answer questions and help troubleshoot coding issues. If requested, the Hub also matches people with data science experts through consultations with a facilitator.
The Data Science Hub also manages the “Data Science Hub Slack Workspace”, where students can ask questions, share tools, and network. “It is the virtual space of the in-person meetups where you can ask questions when they arise,” shares Sarah Stevens, Director of the Data Science Hub.
Genomics-community Slack Channel
The Hub has now added a new “Genomics Community” Slack channel for scientists working in the area. Anyone from campus with an interest in genomics is invited to register. Users can ask and answer questions about genomic methods and analysis tools, learn about programs related to genomic research on and off campus, and find collaborators.
“We have started channels for various communities of practice we help support, such as the genomics community CGSI has been working to cultivate. There are a lot of people doing genomics across a lot of different research areas, so having a place to ask questions is really valuable in continuing to learn,” says Stevens.
Genomics @ UW community map
Another partnership is with the Data Science Institute (DSI), led by Director Kyle Cranmer.
“The DSI is already collaborating with researchers in CGSI, but at the retreat we realized we also have a shared challenge related to building research communities that span campus,” said Cranmer. “It’s been a lot of fun to collaborate on this project.”
One suggestion from the retreat was to create a map of genomics researchers on campus, much like the DSI’s Data Science Community Map.
“When I first arrived on campus, I found it challenging to navigate the landscape and discover all the people on campus doing data science because it is so interdisciplinary,” said Cranmer. “We built the Data Science map to break down silos and to help build a community.”
Now DSI has extended their tool to connect members of the genomics community at UW-Madison, creating a Genomics Community Map. It is a great way for new researchers to learn who is working in genomics on campus, and for existing members to find others with specific expertise.
Anyone working in genomics, including students, faculty, and staff, is encouraged to add themselves to the map, along with categorical terms and a text description of their research area(s).
AI-guided Faculty Search Tool
DSI has gone one step further, running with an idea from the CGSI breakout session: a Chat-GPT-style search of publication abstracts authored by UW-Madison faculty that will connect researchers working in different areas.
The tool is under active development, but researchers can try a beta version as it’s being developed. The tool will be useful to both find other researchers on campus and form collaborative teams for specific funding calls.
CGSI-led communication efforts
CGSI is continuously consolidating and broadcasting relevant information through its own communication efforts. CGSI continues to issue its G&T newsletter, with stories on technologies, faculty, graduate students, and more. Additionally, the G&T compiles in one place relevant genomic seminars, events, courses, and workshops from around campus.
We encourage anyone to subscribe and especially to submit news, events, and award congratulations.
CGSI is currently active on X (formerly Twitter) under the handle @UWMadison_CGSI, where it shares relevant papers and news from CGSI members and affiliates.
CGSI also compiled a list of campus courses taught by CGSI faculty or related to genomic topics. With courses from several programs in one list, students can more easily learn about classes. Courses can be found on the CGSI website https://cgsi.wisc.edu/genomic-courses/ and through the G&T newsletter.
CGSI will continue to spearhead new genomic connections for campus, but the success of these efforts will depend on the community. “I’m excited for people to engage even more,” says Director Gasch. “We encourage colleagues at all career stages to help us build what is an already vibrant community.”
CGSI actively seeks help finding genomics-related news, events, workshops, awards, and story ideas to broadcast through the newsletter and other channels.
To submit suggestions, questions, and general information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.