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Home | Seminars and Symposia | Past seminars/symposia: Monday, November 14, 2005

Industrial Science meets Renaissance Concepts


David Selinger
Computational Biologist
Pioneer Information Management
DuPont Agriculture and Nutrition

Monday, November 14, 2005
2:30 pm

402 Walter Library

Download slides (pdf 166 KB) In the last decade, biology has undergone a transformation in terms of the scale and organizational structures for doing research. These changes have turned several aspects of molecular biology into industrial scale data creation projects. Genome sequencing and expression profiling are two of these areas. In the so called “post-genomic era,” we as scientists have more data than most of us even dreamed of, but our understanding or knowledge of biology has not kept pace with the amount of data. To deal with this problem, biologists have successfully looked to other disciplines, especially computer science, for ideas. One of the more recent ideas that has crossed over from computer science to biology is the use of ontologies as ways of organizing information. Although formal study of ontologies in computer science and their use in describing gene function (GO) are recent, the use of structured hierarchical descriptions has been part of biology since at least the time of Linneaus and his systematic classification of species. The recent development of an ontology to describe plant anatomy and development can be viewed as an effort to define the biological material aspect of high-throughput experiments and also, as a return of plant anatomy, development and physiology as the drivers of research using the tools of industrial science rather than having the tools drive the research. In this talk, I will discuss the concepts of ontologies, how they relate to the problems of understanding high throughput data and how the Plant Ontology Collaboration’s efforts can be used by both public and proprietary groups.