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Becoming R literate: my bioinformatics learning experience

DNA genome sequencing concept

In 2022, we were excited to start offering a new training programme, in collaboration with the Glasgow Bioinformatic Core, to equip wet-lab immunologists, biologists and other life scientists with the skills and confidence to perform their own bioinformatic data analysis. This highly rated online training programme provides essential skills for current and future generations of researchers who want to do some omics and raise the impact for their research. Here, BSI member and bioinformatics course participant, Imran Howell, shares his goals and learnings of the first course of the programme designed for complete beginners.

Diving straight into bioinformatics is daunting for a newcomer. I recently started a PhD having been a clinician for 10 years. Part of my work involved RNA extraction and transcriptome analysis of some trial samples, but techniques had moved on considerably since years ago when I had last done any lab work. Having successfully navigated the wet-lab side and RNA sequencing, I signed up to the ‘Omic data analysis and visualisation using R’ course to make sense of the vast data that had landed in my computer.

My goals from the course were to better understand the science underpinning bioinformatics, learn the best approach to RNA sequencing analysis and, crucially, to get to grips with the R code. The 10-day course was excellent and delivered on all these aspects. The whole course was virtual which meant we had attendees from a variety of places.

The course structure was comprehensive and gave me confidence to produce figures and plots ready for publication.

John was a clear, concise and enthusiastic teacher. He’s clearly got a great deal of real-world experience handling ‘Omic’ data under his belt and he had a lot of practical tips. He taught in a structured way with a good pace and regularly checked in with the group to make sure we weren’t lost in a quagmire of R code. Each lecture was followed by a breakout room where we could work through coding a particular topic, for example PCA plots, with the help of a tutor to sense check. Having the recorded lectures and course materials available on Google drive was a nice touch and useful for referencing back.

I found the course really valuable, and it has set me up to do the bioinformatic analysis on my data. The course structure was comprehensive and gave me confidence to produce figures and plots ready for publication. I plan to attend the follow-up ‘Functions, signatures and biomarkers’ course later in the year to help with other work I am planning. Overall, I highly recommend this bioinformatics course – it finally made me R literate!

Imran Howell,
Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Oxford

Here you can see the full outline of the programme and guidance on which course is right for you. You will also be able to see which courses are currently open. 

Glasgow Bioinformatic Core Logo

The programme has been developed and is delivered by the Glasgow Bioinformatic Core and is being offered by the British Society for Immunology.