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UCLA Magazine Winter 2002
It's not your parents dorm anymore
Outside the Ivory Tower
A beautiful Mind
The Long March
The New Scientists
Critical Care

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Winter 2002
The New Scientists
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With the explosion of new knowledge that has come from the sequencing of more than 100 genomes, including the human genome, says Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics C. Fred Fox, “we know the blueprint of life for many, many different organisms. But what do we do now with this massive amount of data?”

Bioinformatics holds the key, dealing with the computational management of biological information to allow scientists to analyze this flood of data. Extracting information about genes and the proteins they make could lead to new drug treatments and a more individualized practice of medicine.

Faculty are preparing graduate students — mathematicians, computer scientists and biologists — to develop new computational strategies and applications to mine this genetic data. In one project, a biologist is working with students to define the mechanisms by which plants respond to the shortening or lengthening of days. By manipulating the data, one student, Todd Mockler Ph.D. ’02, found a whole family of proteins that are predicted to respond to the changes in light.

“How can this be applied? You could use this information to control the flowering of plants or their growth process,” Fox suggests.

Mockler, a biologist with three years’ experience in the biotech field, entered the IGERT program in his fourth year of graduate work. He now works at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., where he occupies an unusual research niche: He is a plant biologist who can use bioinformatics to make predictions about plants, then turn around to do the biological experiments to test his theories.

“UCLA gave me the opportunity to work at the interface of biology and bioinformatics. I was right in the middle of it, able to operate in both fields,” Mockler says.

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