James and the Giant Corn Genetics: Studying the Source Code of Nature

March 13, 2009

Maize Meeting 2009 part 1

Filed under: Plants,research stories — James @ 1:10 pm

In a lot of ways its like a reunion. Of the five people I did science for as an undergrad (this is what happens when you work in a new lab every summer) four of them are here. No to mention the grad students and post docs I’ve worked with, or took classes with, or who TAed classes I took. One of the reasons I like working in maize so much is the how connected the community is.

The rest of this entry will be a random collection of cool things I took note of on my iPhone:

*Arabidopsis genome cost 70 million dollars and took approx. 500 people seven years to complete. Today re-sequencing that genome costs 7000 dollars and takes two postdocs a week. (Note that this is re-sequencing a known genome. Having to assemble a new genome from scratch costs more because you need longer reads and takes a LOT longer.)

*The talk on developing exemplars of transposons was very cool. All sorts of complicated statistics related to defining families by relatedness, and then using that to pick the “most normal” copy for that family in the genome

*A guy presented a tool that, given a single gene, will find all the related genes in a genome. Define their gene structure, and then build a phyogenetic tree of the genes. Basically everything I had to do to make the tree in this entry, only instead of taking one grad student 2-8 hours, it takes a computer program 1-3 minutes.

*Talked to a woman who has a poster here looking at FT-like genes in maize. (That giant phylogenetic tree I made was looking at FT genes in grass species.) Great to meet a total stranger with a common research interest. 

More to come later. I’m considering posting my raw notes as a text file at the end of the meeting. Between the random things I think are worth copying down and the iPhone exaserbated spelling errors, I at least, find them hillarious. I’ve beat a strategic retreat from the poster session for little while to post this update and should probably return now.

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