On Monday this week, I attended the Bacterial and Viral Bioinformatics Workshop at Reiman Gardens in Ames, Iowa. In addition to NIAMRRE, this workshop was co-hosted by Iowa State University's Office of the Vice President for Research, College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Agriculture and Life Science, ISU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the College of Veterinary Medicine Association of Graduate Students. I arrived at Reiman Gardens early to explore the lush green spaces and to get a feel for the venue. The workshop couldn't have asked for a better setting. One of the walls of the conference room was a window that provided a widescreen view into the verdant Hughes Conservatory. After taking it all in, I donned my name tag, set up my workstation, and sat in the back row. I observed the attendees steadily filing into the space before the class began. There was a general buzz in the air as people recognized each other and spoke over coffee provided by the event. The room was large, but every seat was filled by the time the workshop began.
The buzz of excitement quickly turned to intent attention as Rebecca Wattam from the Bacterial and Viral Bioinformatics Resource Center (BV-BRC) took the podium. Immediately, she began to get to work greeting those who came and giving a rough outline of what was expected throughout the course. Her demeanor was cheerful but assertive as she walked through the different strategies of the course. The workshop was executed through the BV-BRC website, which has a comprehensive online network of self-guided tutorials, user guides, and citation lists, which all aided in the publication of bioinformatics research. I was fascinated by the thought that in this room were so many passionate minds holding the power to develop and engineer future scientific breakthroughs. Beginning the lesson, Wattam engaged the audience and let them know she was attentive to their needs. "Now, this next part may be frustrating, but I'm going to walk you through every part of it myself. We're going to get through it together," she remarked at one point.
This would be a running theme with the other lecturers, too. Wattam was joined by James Davis and Allan Dickerman, who led the first three days of bacterial antimicrobial resistance training. The last two days were taught by Anna Capria and Indresh Singh, who focused on viral bioinformatics. While some workshop students attended the entire week, others could opt for only taking one course or the other. However, this did not affect the classroom size since the turnout was consistently wall-to-wall. I observed many groups clustered during breaks in impromptu breakout sessions to review their learning. The event was a valuable resource and the students took the opportunity to soak in as much as they could to carry with them for the future.