Science has fascinated me since I was a young boy growing up in China’s Zhejiang province. I couldn’t have imagined then how science would open a world of possibilities and allow me to pursue a cutting-edge career on the other side of the globe.
As I worked on my graduate degree at Zhejiang University, science and technology were rapidly merging. The Human Genome Project had just made worldwide news with its completion in 2003. Instead of teaching science or working in a laboratory, I wanted to be a participant in the growing confluence of science and technology.
I learned how to program and enjoyed the instantaneous results of writing a code and then testing it. The process is similar to scientists performing experiments.
I earned a PhD in biology with a focus on genomic data analysis and then came to the United States to work in research roles at Penn State and Northwestern. I joined St. Jude in October 2016 as a bioinformatics research scientist in the rapidly growing Computational Biology Department.
Computational Biology develops innovative computational methods to answer challenging biological questions and help accelerate research and clinical efforts. My department is organized into four areas: independent faculty research, collaborative multidisciplinary research, clinical genomic, and wet-lab and computing technology development.
As one of seven scientists in my department’s functional genomics analysis group, I develop codes and computational pipelines for next-generation sequencing and analyze transcriptional, genetic and epigenetic data.
My primary focus is a collaboration with the laboratory of Suzanne Baker, PhD, Developmental Neurobiology, working on untangling the role of mutant histone H3 in diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma.
Communication is the most critical part of our jobs when working with investigators. They are taking detailed, specific steps to tackle unsolved challenges in their fields. Bioinformatics is an important part of all genomic research projects.
We help focus and complement their scientific research through the analytical processing of large volumes of data, so we need to gain an understanding of their research project by asking the right questions.
St. Jude is very different from anywhere else I’ve worked. It’s amazing to have an actual department of Computational Biology where I have many colleagues with different areas of expertise. We learn from each other, and you have many opportunities to advance your career.
Hongjian Jin, PhD, is a bioinformatics research scientist in the St. Jude Computational Biology Department.