In Interviews

Shila Ghazzanfar is at the beginning of her bioinformatics career, she will be a workshop leader at the event. We wanted to find out why she chose this path and what excites her about her work.

What do you think are the most interesting “big questions” in your field?
The most interesting ‘big questions’ to me are all about systems involving large data. This includes finding patterns in complex and multivariate data and building on the ability to learn and contribute to understanding these systems. What is very important in being able to achieve these is to effectively visualise and display large datasets and patterns.

Please tell us about your research interests and what you are currently working on.
My research interest is at the junction between statistics and biology, and I enjoy the collaboration to which this research area lends itself. My projects involve integrating datasets involving gene expression and mutation in a network framework. I’m also interested in how to effectively visualise the data at hand.

Do you have favourite applications of your work and what is the impact of these applications?
I work very closely with the melanoma research group at the Westmead Millennium Institute and it’s very exciting to see the iterative process of collaborative work. Some comments stemming from a statistical model or a graphical summary can lead to a new biological question, which then leads on to the next piece of work. This involves some experimental design and in particular thinking about how the problems can be solved.

Why did you choose this career?
I chose to do a PhD because I enjoy working on projects involving large and complex data, interpreting the data from a statistical perspective and seeing the biological interpretation as well. It’s very gratifying to be working in a space that can potentially lead to real health benefits for people.

Can you tell us about the highlight of your career so far?
It’s probably too early in my career to be thinking of such things, but all in all I’m enjoying the entire process so far. Certainly throughout the course of a PhD one highlight is being able to attend and present your work at events like BioInfoSummer, for which I am very grateful.