#WhyBioinformatics Q&A with Anna Hakobyan

Who are you and how did you choose the bioinformatics path?

I am a Bioinformatics Ph.D. student at Max Perutz Labs, working in the field of cancer genomics. My journey into Bioinformatics started in 2008 when I began studying Bioinformatics at Yerevan State University and continued with my Master’s studies at Copenhagen University. Upon completion, I returned to Armenia and joined the Bioinformatics Group at the Institute of Molecular Biology in Armenia. While exploring my options in the job market, I joined Synopsis Armenia as a research and development engineer, which not only gave me amazing friends, but also valuable experience in scripting, programming, and working in a company. It also helped me realize that my true interests lie in scientific research. Hence, I quit my job again and joined the Institute of Molecular Biology again, followed by a Ph.D. position at the Research Center of Molecular Medicine(CeMM) in Austria.

Currently, my research interests lie in the fields of systems biology, cancer genomics, and network medicine. Overall, my interests revolve around understanding how life works, including how molecular systems, cells, organisms, minds, and larger systems like societies work (not doing a great job at that, though).

Learn more about Ms. Hakobyan’s research interests and access her publications on our website

  

What do you do at ABI? 

At the moment, I supervise ABI student Nelly Vardazaryan on her research on oncogenic pathway alterations across large-scale cancer studies as a part of ABI Research School. First and foremost, it’s a pleasure to supervise an ABI student because of the curiosity, motivation, passion for science, and intelligence they demonstrate. Next, it’s a nice opportunity to pursue scientific questions which are of high interest to me while sharing some of my knowledge and experience and learning from the student carrying the project out. Finally, as a Ph.D. student myself, I gain experience in student supervision. 

Why is bioinformatics important? 

First, we are at a stage now where the vast majority of biological or biomedical studies generate or use some kind of big data. Bioinformatics is the discipline that handles big and complex data in biology, so it’s essential in any biological project. From this aspect, a good comparison would perhaps be – how important is a calculator for an accountant? It’s an essential part of the work process and makes everything much easier, more efficient, and also correct.

Second, biological systems are so complex that in their entirety they are incomprehensible to the human mind. One person can have a good understanding of only a small part of a cell or a mechanism, but even one cell is too complex. Bioinformatics allows us to create much larger and more intricate representations of biological systems and generate knowledge that otherwise would be unattainable. 

In Armenia, bioinformatics is one of the few scientific disciplines which have the potential to develop into a cutting-edge level with moderate investments, since if given the expertise, all that is required for quality research is good data and computational resources. Worldwide demand in bioinformatics research is only growing, and it is a field where Armenia has a chance to stand out and create an attractive environment for scientific and industrial investments aiming at bettering our understanding of biology and using that understanding to create products for the larger world.