Transcriptome Assembly: Computational Challenges of Next-Generation Sequence Data

Presented by Professor Steven Salzberg, Johns Hopkins University

November 1, 2017

The Department of Computer Science at Stony Brook University hosts a variety of guest speakers and lecturers for both students and professors as part of their Shutterstock Distinguished Lecture Series. On November 1, 2017, they had the opportunity to welcome Professor Steven L. Salzberg from Johns Hopkins University. Professor Salzberg’s talk centered around transcriptome assembly. Professor Salzberg explained that the next-generation sequencing technology allows us to discover and analyze biomedical data faster than ever before.

An expert in the field, Professor Salzberg is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of biomedical engineering, computer science and biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University. Professor Salzberg also stands as Director of the Center for Computational Biology and a member of the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine. Salzberg detailed the way that different systems for sequence analysis break down data about RNA and DNA and the way the technology is advancing and changing.

“This is a pace of technological improvement as far as I can tell, faster than any other technological improvement we’ve made as a species of any technology,” Professor Salzberg said about the rapid improvements of sequencing technology.

Undergrads, graduate students and professors filled the lecture hall seats as Professor Salzberg quickly and thoroughly explained both RNA-sequencing and even the questions surrounding human genomes. One audience member, a professor, asked “Why is it difficult to find out the number of genes?” Keeping the audience interested, Salzberg replied, “It’s harder than you think.”

As Professor Salzberg wrapped up the end of his lecture and the audience moved on to the Shutterstock DLS reception, there was a low rumble from all of the conversations the lecture provoked. Students comparing Salzberg’s lecture to others and researchers comparing their experience with that of Professor Salzberg’s.

Audience members stayed back as the rest left, waiting to speak with Professor Salzberg, perhaps to congratulate or seek more insight. Either way he was happy to oblige. Another successful computer science lecture series, provoking thought and questions, not just in the student body but the department as a whole.