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How we provide bioinformatics support at TSL

The first thing you’ll need to know is how we go about doing things here.

The bioinformatics service at TSL exists to provide scientific computing infrastructure, bioinformatics training, expert guidance and advice in performing bioinformatics experiments and analyses and personnel to carry out bioinformatics analyses for and with TSL staff.

We fully understand that bioinformatics is a really new field for most biologists and we will do everything we can to help you do the science you need to.

How we provide support

The simplest way we provide support is by doing the bioinformatics job for you: you drop by the office, we have a chat about what you’re trying to achieve and what data you have and we set up and run analyses for you. Usually it goes like this…


This is a great way to get things done, but only to a point. With lots of people using the service there gets to be a long wait for the results and when (like all science) the bioinformatics needs to be tweaked and re-run you get a bit of a recursive situation that is quitefrustrating for you because of the waiting it requires.


So if you are going to be doing a lot of bioinformatics and it will be core to your project, it makes sense for us to help you to help yourself do your analyses when you need them doing. We call the varied ways that we achieve this ‘training’. But its not like going back to school, or Army boot-camp or anything, so don’t panic.

How we provide training

We do training in lots of ways. Most noticeably we do training courses. In these we prepare a lot of slides and a handbook and exercises in the topic we’re presenting on, kind of like a computer lab back when you were an undergraduate at university or college (except we won’t be marking anything or handing out grades). We appreciate that when new people start at TSL some will have lots of experience in some things and less in others and we try to embrace this by providing training courses at lots of levels for lots of topics. For example, for bioinformatics newbies we’ll cover things like using Galaxy, or getting started with running programs on the command-line. For someone looking to expand their skillset we’ll do a course in advanced script writing in Python or something like that. We run courses on cutting edge techniques like RNA-seq too for someone seeking a grounding in a particular suite of tools.

Training courses like these are great, but they’re not the whole story, in fact they’re usually just the beginning. Learning any new skill takes time and we know you’ll get to a point where you can’t see the next step to take or feel there is a gap in your knowledge. We expect you to come back to us time and again to ask about the things that escaped us all before, even after you’ve been on a training course. In practice most of our training gets done in one-to-one chats on very specific issues, we don’t expect the training courses to be able to teach you every tiny aspect of a topic so feel free to come and follow up whenever you need to. Try to think of us as computer-based analogues of the friendly Post-Doc leading you through a new lab procedure for the first time.

We also provide a lot of on-line training resources, for you to look at and work through in your own time, should you enjoy that sort of learning. The hub for these is right here, at this training website!

The big message about bioinformatics support

All these scenarios start and progress through discussion. The big message here is that the bioinformatics team are ALWAYS happy to talk through any aspect of what you’re doing and find the right path for you. Whatever you want to get done, we want to get done too, just come and get us involved!

but if I do come and talk to you aren’t you just going to send me away to do it myself…?

Ok, we’re sorry you think that, we don’t mean to give that impression although it is a logical conclusion given the way we work. We do care about your career and skill set and your overall productivity and want you to be able to get as much work done as possible. All the while we’re conscious that you should be able to include as much of this important skill as possible into your CV or resume or life mission statement manifesto or whatever. But if you feel stuck with the task at hand or haven’t got time or just aren’t happy with the way it’s going, please tell us. We can find another way to get the job done . We’ll never say no (we can’t, we’d get fired).

do I even need you guys? My labbies seem to have what I need to do pretty much down…?

That’s brilliant, and it warms our hearts to hear it, but do drop by anyway for a chat when you’re starting with new bioinformatics experiments. We’re pretty good at bioinformatics down here in the dedicated bioinformatics team (if I do say so myself!) and I’m pretty certain that in lots of circumstances we can add something that can make your tasks more efficient or easier or just make your bioinformatics life more pleasurable.

Where you should go to get some bioinformatics done next

Naturally, you should come by to talk to the bioinformatics team about your project and we’ll work out what we can do. Don’t be overwhelmed by the first chat, in fact it’s likely there won’t be anything to do immediately (you might be waiting on new data) and we think it works best if we do things step-by-step rather than hit you with a million new things right up front, we don’t ever want it to feel like this…


So, that’s it for now, welcome to TSL from the bioinformatics team and we look forward to working with you soon.