Hidden depths in data are an avenue to real-world data skills. These skills are crucial for almost any job of the future including metabolomics and computational biology.
“My father was a biology teacher and avid fisherman,” remembers Stacey Reinke. “So my first biology lessons were when I was three or four, showing me the different parts of the fish.”
Little wonder then that she would develop a passion for biology. What the three-year-old Canadian couldn’t have predicted though was that her passion would lead to a field of study that hadn’t been invented yet in a job on the other side of the world.
Stacey is now a Senior Lecturer at Edith Cowan University (ECU) – ranked in the world’s top 100 universities under 50 years old – and an expert in clinical and biomedical metabolomics.
“Metabolomics captures hundreds or thousands of chemicals in our blood or urinary tissues,” she explains. “Then we use data science and computational biology approaches to look for patterns in the underlying chemical structure.”
Top of her game
Supported by world-leading experts in the research centre of ECU’s Centre for Integrative Metabolomics and Computational Biology, Stacey searches for these chemical patterns in conditions like asthma to build up a clearer understanding of how best to treat patients.
She also works on designing better ways to find these patterns – which has become something of an obsession: “When I have a large biological dataset and it’s just numbers, I get really excited when I think of a different way to visualise my data, and then manage to discover something new.”
This enthusiasm for data seeps into Stacey’s teaching role too.
As course coordinator for ECU’s Master and Graduate Certificate of Data Science courses, Stacey draws on mathematics, statistics and computer science so that students can learn to extract knowledge and insights from all types of data.
But she is keen that students don’t just know how to do it in theory – she wants them to be prepared to use their skills in the real world.
Like all lecturers at ECU, Stacey is laser-focused on helping her students become ‘world ready’ through industry-relevant courses, supportive study environments and world-class facilities.
A data-driven future
This university-wide focus has driven ECU to becoming the top-ranked Australian public university for undergraduate skill development six years in a row “We really try to make the teaching very applied so that our students are ready for their future employment,” she says.
For example, in their final year, Stacey’s students either lead a research project with academic and industry partners or take part in a 12-week work-integrated learning placement where they manage an industrial project with guided help.
For Stacey, these real-world data skills are crucial for almost any job of the future.
“We’re exposed to hundreds of thousands, if not billions, of bits of data every day and we have to try to process that,” she says.
“So I think any industry now – from biotech and pharmaceuticals to defence and mining – is starting to rely on data-driven research, meaning there’s a very wide range of careers opening up.”
Author: Ben Skuse
Ben Skuse is a UK-based former mathematician turned professional science writer, who has written for the Careers with STEM magazines for over 5 years. You can follow him on Twitter @BenSkuseSciComm.