De-Coding Cancer: bioinformatician Robert Flight joins RS!

We’ve programmed a very special week for y’all here at Real Scientists, with bioinformatician Robert Flight (@rmflight) taking the reins. Robert is a senior research associate at the Markey Cancer Center at the University of Kentucky, using bioinformatics skills from their PhD to better understand different cancers. As usual, we asked Robert some questions:

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Tell us about what got you into science?

I’ve always been curious about the natural world, biology and the human body in particular (I reread the human body section of Usborne’s Big Book of Science a million times as a kid). I went to university with the idea that I would like to do science, but wasn’t sure on the particular branch. I even considered an MD/PhD at one point, but ended up bombing the medical entrance exams.

How did you get into bioinformatics?

I chose my field mostly by accident. Although my concentration was biochemistry in undergrad, I had bad interactions with the primary teaching professor for the biochem classes at my university, and ended up taking more of the chemistry classes. When looking for a senior research project, I discovered computational biochemistry, and worked on a computer-aided drug design project. I was always good with computers, but didn’t know how much one could apply them directly in the fields of chemistry and biology. That project lead to a Masters, and then a PhD where I actually started programming as part of my research. I’ve stayed in it because there is just so much cool stuff, and being able to apply computational skills to help others better understand biology is awesome.

What are you working on now and why do you care about it?

I work in a bioinformatics group at the Markey Cancer Center at the University of Kentucky. My time is split between two goals: 1 – analyzing collaborators data, and 2 – developing novel methods to support those analyses. Most of our collaborators are examining changes in lipid abundances between normal and cancer cells to better understand and or detect cancer in the body.

Better understanding cancer metabolism should lead to better diagnoses, detection, and treatment. This is especially important as there are very few cases of cancer that are identical to one another. Ideally, metabolism may point the way to more effective treatments.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I actually like to do data analysis completely unrelated to my work. So even when I’m not at work programming, I still like to do programming related things.

Please welcome Robert to Real Scientists!

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