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The killer ninja skill in bioinformatics

"Hmmm... sed -n '1~4s/^@/>/p;2~4p' file.fq > file.fa
...while invisible..."
As usual, it was after the event that the deeper insights emerged...

Following a mind-expanding day of bioinformtics at InCoB 2014 earlier this year, we had repaired to a nearby restaurant for the conference dinner.

After discussing

  • (with Asif M Khan) how the major histocompatibility complex helps our immune system adapt in response to new diseases
  • (with Tin Wee Tan) how the Infiniband system used for high-speed data transfer inside supercomputers can be co-opted to provide insanely fast data transfer over tens of kilometres (e.g., across a city)
  • (with Asif and Tin Wee after some beers) plans for a pre-emptive intervention system for world peace turned to bioinformatics learning, education and training, following a lively discussion session (which I will be writing about soon) involving Vicky Schneider (TGAC, GOBLET), Michelle Brazas (, GOBLET), a quartet of COMBINErs, and a roomful of enthusiasts.

So, what did we regard as the truly killer ninja skill in bioinformatics?

Was it


We figured that the absolute killer ninja skill for bioinformaticians was:

the ability to learn stuff fast, and apply it well.

(OK, we may have to work on the phrasing a bit there, but it is still catchier than "metalearning".)

Like gene and protein expression, these sorts of opinions are time- and environment-dependent. However, on reflection, it speaks of one of the defining features of bioinformatics and bioscience these days: things change... fast.

...not so sure what is says about ninjas though.