Dr. Gwênlyn Glusman

As a Senior Research Scientist in the Hood Lab, Dr. Gwênlyn Glusman has been crucial in advancing genomic research over the past decade. Prior to coming to Institute for Systems Biology over 12 years ago, Dr. Glusman worked and studied all over the world. She grew up in Argentina, but after high school, she and her brother moved to Israel in search of more opportunities in science. There, she received her PhD, in which she worked with olfactory receptor genes and invented a new way of discovering genes within the genome. She was the first person to earn a degree in Computational Genomics at the Weizmann Institute.

Until over a decade ago, DNA was a huge, enigmatic expanse of data. However, with recent advancements, scientists can now sequence hundreds of thousands of genomes and Dr. Glusman’s job is to make sense of all the information. Using her background in Computational Genomics, she interprets the data and distinguishes meaningless variants from those that may cause disease or propensity to disease. She specializes in Family Genomics, which allows further insight, accuracy, and opportunity for error correction; whereas sequencing an individual merely accounts for each chromosome once, sequencing an entire family allows scientists to observe chromosomes multiple times.

The bulk of Dr. Glusman’s work involves programming, but she is also an advocate for the importance of communication, and thus interacts with as many people as possible to share with and learn from. She dedicates an hour every morning to writing, because conveying results, giving presentations, and writing papers is just as essential as research. To further advance this cause, she started a group called “Writing Dojo,” which brings scientists together to commit time to writing papers.

When asked if she has any advice for young budding scientists, Dr. Glusman replied that one should always maintain a “healthy amount of criticism towards results.” Scientists should perform controls for their various investigations, because one of the most important things is to be honest with oneself. Additionally, one should “have clarity of thought by talking as much as possible with others.” Explaining projects to someone else forces one to clarify one’s own thought process. Finally, as a self-taught programmer, she recommends that everyone should learn how to program, since it is a tool that can be used to tackle many complex problems.

Dr. Glusman’s favorite part of her work is when she looks at his results and the answer is not trivial. Even better, she says, is when the results don’t make sense, because then she has found something new and must try to figure it out. She thinks that “Big Data” is a huge opportunity for knowledge, and that it holds a great amount of promise for the future.