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William Sullivan

Undergrad: University of Washington
Internship: Joint Genome Institute
Currently at: University of California Santa Cruz Genomics Institute

How did you find yourself at Oregon? What about the program attracted you?

Leading up to the BGMP program, I was chasing a doctorate in Physical Therapy but ended up turning it down for lack of interest and while searching for a new direction stumbled across bioinformatics. I knew that experience was gonna be a key factor entering into this new field and was searching for programs that not only provided the education but would also give me a chance to cut my teeth in the field. During this search, I found the Bioinformatics Program at the University of Oregon which matched perfectly with what I was looking for education and real-world experience. It also helped that Eugene is a beautiful place to spend 6 months.

What was the intensive summer like for you?

As the name suggests the summer was quite intense, it felt like we were thrown in the deep end then asked to swim, but that’s what made it fun. It brought many different challenges, and it showed us just how varied bioinformatics was and the knowledge needed to apply it. On top of everything, it also gave us a chance to grow closer as a class, teaching us how to work with people from different backgrounds and leverage their knowledge. Overall this was one of my favorite parts of the BGMP program.

Where was your internship?

My internship was at the Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI) in Walnut Creek, CA. JGI was set up as a sequencing facility to help complete the human genome and then converted to sequence and analyze the genomes of non-medical microbes, microbial communities, plants, fungi and other targets relevant to DOE missions in energy and environment.

What was your internship like? What are you responsible for? What is a typical day like?

My internship gave me a good taste of applying multiple skills learned during the program. I was part of the R&D and Re-sequencing groups during my time at JGI and was working with several outside collaborators on different projects. These projects ranged from developing a single-cell analysis pipeline to looking for long structural variants in whole-genome sequencing data from 3000 popular trees. My day-to-day was a mix of learning new tools, testing out new analysis methods, and building/giving presentations to different groups internal and external.

Do you feel the program prepared you for the internship? In what ways?

I feel the program gave us a good taste of the things we would encounter in the internship and provided us with tools to be able to solve new problems when they came up. One of the best being, how to ask the right questions when presented a problem which can lead you down the right path to a solution.

How did your internship prepare you for your current position/career path?

I believe my internship helped me to realize the parts of bioinformatics I enjoyed and the skills I needed to improve moving forward. Also, it allowed me to see just how a career in bioinformatics would look and where I saw myself in that view.

Do you have any advice for prospective students?

My advice to prospective students is to take the summer intensive seriously and really try to figure out what discipline under bioinformatics you’re most interested in and chase that when looking at internships.