The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG, pronounced “A-shag”), annual meeting is a scientific, networking and socializing milestone every year. This year the meeting was 8 time zones away from the UK in San Francisco, CA. It was a busy year for our group, with 4 talks and a poster being presented, a variety of collaborators’ meetings to attend, a choice of hundreds of talks to listen to, and, of course, plenty of drinking to do.

Each member of the group who was there offers their thoughts after the break. It’s interesting to see that while we covered a wide variety of topics across the group, the most consistent message is that this year didn’t yield any major discoveries that will change the field. Instead, we all saw incremental progress in applying next-gen sequencing and similar technologies to many different problems. Perhaps this is simply a reflection of the nature of modern human genetics: a gradual improvement of our understanding, rather than a sudden revelation.

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Isabelle: About a month ago, I joined the Barrett-group at the Sanger institute. Coming from a molecular biology background and ending up in a team of computational biologists, statistical geneticists and bio-informaticians, it soon became clear that I was going to have to learn a whole new vocabulary: the ‘others’ love terms ending in *ash: bash, hash, slash (forward and backward!), dash…; and their day to day language includes things like grep (‘grepped’), awk, sed, syntax, R, perl, python, unix, linux (what is actually the difference between all these things??), … . Although I thought I was getting along very well before, manipulating datafiles in MS Excel and here and there using some command line programs (already making me feel like a computer wizard), it here turned out quickly that I was far from being a computer genius. I got lucky though, since one of my new colleagues appeared to be a ‘partner in crime’, also having a background in molecular biology, but having been introduced into the wonderful world of scripting and programming already years ago.

Iris: although I made the switch a while ago, until I started at Sanger I have always worked in a clinical setting so the wet lab was always just around the corner. In the Sanger introduction day there is a lot of attention placed on the campus desire to be as green as possible. More »