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Forum: Who are the Greatest Bioinformaticians Of All Time (GBOAT)
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I am planning to write a chapter on bioinformatics personalities - an acronym popped into my mind:

GBOAT - The Greatest Bioinformaticians Of All Time

So who is on your list? Who are the most influential bioinformaticians as they affect your career (keep it to 5-10 people). I am looking to find people whose work directly benefits you and make your achievements possible. I am not looking for the traditional sciency measures of "Nobel prize" candidates that "discovered" something.

For example, take BLAST, the authors are important - but they are not the ones that made BLAST so special. The true potential of BLAST is reached because there is a global repository to search. If we had the global repository and no blast we would be better off than vice versa.

PS: For those that missed them here are some posts in the "Uses this" series: https://www.biostars.org/t/uses-this/

ADD COMMENTlink 10 months ago Istvan Albert 80k • updated 10 months ago Alex Reynolds 28k
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I'd suggest to classify by disciplines. For many people here Bioinformatics is usually related to NGS, but there are also phylogenetics, population genetics, structural biology, etc which were "Bioinformatics" long before NGS.

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
grant.hovhannisyan
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I will nominate Rahul Satija for Seurat

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
F
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According to biostars ( https://www.biostars.org/user/list/?sort=reputation&limit=all%20time&q= ) me, Devon, Istvan, genomax, Neil, Michael... :-D

ADD COMMENTlink 10 months ago Pierre Lindenbaum 120k
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Obviously biostars tells the truth :)

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
Devon Ryan
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You need to go to the second row on that listing, too... ;)

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
Kevin Blighe
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TIL I'm in the Top 50 of the Greatest Bioinformaticians of All Time

Edit. but truly Heng Li is the Messi of Bioinformatics. No question about it..

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
5heikki
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  1. Heng Li
  2. Steven Salzberg
  3. Lior Pachter
  4. Aaron Quinlan
  5. James Kent
  6. Ewan Birney
  7. Benjamin Langmead
  8. Cole Trapnell
  9. Lincoln Stein

Each person on this list produced algorithms, software that was revolutionary for its time, used by millions - and with that changed the world of bioinformatics.

Each should be a billionaire based on the value they produced for mankind.

ADD COMMENTlink 10 months ago Istvan Albert 80k
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Here's another vote for James (Jim) Kent (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Kent)

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
jean.elbers
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Good list. Maybe also Altschul because of the Blast paper?

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
5heikki
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I would want to list NCBI blast and its integration with Entrez - it is a complete reimplementation with unique improvements to work at the scale it does work now - but I am not sure who to credit for that.

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
Istvan Albert
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I very quickly run into the usual problem of "what's a bioinformatician?"

The first persons that came to mind were Hadley Wickham, Gordon Smyth, Rafa Irizarry, Wolfgang Huber, Timothy Bailey, Heng Li and then I ran into the next problem that was: most of their packages, that I use so much, are surely team efforts (think Aaron Lun, Mike Love, Simon Anders, Alicia Oshlack, Stephanie Hicks), and then the whole bioconductor infrastructure is so valuable....

ADD COMMENTlink 10 months ago Friederike 4.2k
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Alicia Oshlack in particular has been doing a lot of good stuff under the radar: bpipe, diffvar, missMethyl,and clustree.

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
A. Domingues
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In no particular order:
Gene Myers - Genome assembly
Bill Pearson - FASTA aligner and format both, Participates on Biostars!
Margaret Dayhoff - She has been called "mother and father of bioinformatics"
Michael Waterman/Temple Smith - Smith-Waterman
Webb Miller - Genome scale alignments
Sean Eddy - HMM's
Janet Thornton - Structural biology
Joseph Felsenstein - Evolutionary inference
David Baker - Protein structure prediction
Craig Venter - EST/Microbiomes
Eric Lander

ADD COMMENTlink 10 months ago genomax 68k
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Good someone doesn't forget the very early bioinformaticians. I would include Paulien Hogeweg, who coined the word bioinformatics.

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
h.mon
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did not know that, excellent definition - one that still eludes most biologists:

she defined the term bioinformatics as "the study of informatic processes in biotic systems".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paulien_Hogeweg

Most biologists think that bioinformatics is about data analysis, Dr. Hogeweg already knew in 1970 that it is about information

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
Istvan Albert
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Argh! I was just about to post her :)

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
gaberoo
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+1 for Gene Myers/Bill Pearson

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
Joe
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Came here to add Margaret Dayhoff, glad someone beat me to it! Not only created the first way of measuring relationships between DNA and protein sequences, but also started the first catelouge of sequences and structures.

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
i.sudbery
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No one person, and of course there's always more you could add, e.g.

Russell Doolittle (lots of stuff, esp. evolutionary aspects of bioinformatics) + David Penny (have to add a fellow New Zealander!) Needleman, Wunsch, Sellers (early sequence alignment) Walter Fitch (early RNA structure prediction work) Roger Staden (Staden package), also the UWGCG package crowd David & Jane Richardson, VI Lim, George Rose (protein structure) Chou, Fasman and Robson (secondary structure prediction; widely used in it's day)

These just from the 60s and 70s; many more if I added more recent names. Free easter egg (just one I love to share!): in 1986 R Lewin wrote a paper entitled “The DNA databases are swamped” :-)

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
gjacobs
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I have focused almost exclusively on the "as they affect your career" part.

My list will be unconventional, in no specific order of importance:

  1. John Quackenbush (Professor at Dana Farber, I believe) - I would say that he was the first 'superstar' in my mind, and I was thrilled when he responded to my email when I was a mere student only entering bioinformatics. He would call himself a computational biologist, though.
  2. Michael Barnes (Reader / Associate Professor at Queen Mary University of London) - Have known Mike for years and has been a good mentor for diverse reasons. I am thankful that he still stays in touch with me.
  3. Michael Love (Assistant Professor at UNC) - he is exemplary in how one can write/develop useful software, maintain it, and address every single question that its users have
  4. Benilton Carvalho (Assistant Professor at Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil) - saw him give a talk in the UK on Affymetrix microarrays and was awe-inspired. Benilton's work has hugely benefited the microarray community.
  5. Bioconductor core team (Lori, Wolfgang, Vince, Seán, Martin, Hector, etc)

I am acutely aware that there are no females in my list (except Lori); however, I have female mentors, usually as supervisory level, and who are not bioinformaticians.

Addendum: another shout out to Myles Lewis (Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry), a rheumatologist but who could double as a bioinformatician, who taught me how to think creatively about data.

ADD COMMENTlink 10 months ago Kevin Blighe 43k
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+1 For Michael Love. The developer of STAR, Alex Dobin, is from the same brilliant category of Bioinformaticians.

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
grant.hovhannisyan
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Good list Kevin,

No. 6: Biostars.org's unsung heroes (Pierre Lindenbaum, Devon Ryan, Istvan Albert, genomax , Michael Dondrup , Kevin Blighe, WouterDeCoster, Alex Reynolds, Giovanni M Dall'Olio, Sean Davis , Emily_Ensembl etc)

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
Mike
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There are a lot of great suggestions, so I'll add "The bioconductor core team", because we'd mostly be lost without them. Among the core team members Martin Morgan really stands out as having facilitated huge amounts of what we now take for granted.

ADD COMMENTlink 10 months ago Devon Ryan 90k
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Difficult question, but my personal list would definitely include:

Margaret Dayhoff (created the field)
Janet Thornton (head of the EBI at the time of the human genome project),
Richard Durbin,
Heng Li (Was a postdoc across the hall when I was doing my first NGS project, had just written MAQ and samtools),
James Bonfield (no staden package, no human genome)
Philip Green (ditto for phred, phrap and consed),
Wolfgang Huber (one of the earliest of the new breed of functional genomics bioinformaticians?),
Mike Eisen (hello? Biclustered heatmaps anyone?)
Gorden Smyth (of course),
Mike Love,

I'm sure there are loads more that I'm missing. The list above is probably revealing my career history...

ADD COMMENTlink 10 months ago i.sudbery 4.7k
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Great mentions to James Bonfield and Philip Green!

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
h.mon
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I think we really, really have to nominate Stephen Altschul for that list. He has co-authored one of the most influential (by citation) Bioinformatics tool, BLAST. In addition, he has popularized bioinformatics in general and through his work at NCBI helped to shape web-blast and make it the popular tool we have now. Indeed, the natural way in which we take blast and web-blast, and other applications and databases for granted justifies these honors. Certainly, the coupling of Genbank and other large databases with an efficient algorithm to search through them is what has made these tools so popular and indispensable for biological research. He, and of course the NCBI team, have thereby shaped the way we view web-applications in bioinformatics today and that long before any web 2.0,3,0,4.0 gimmicks. Simply, think about how much research this resource has enabled.

A lot of current achievements are actually team achievements, and this needs to certainly be pointed out in the context of this question. But there always have been some inspiring minds that are specifically influential.

ADD COMMENTlink 10 months ago Michael Dondrup 46k
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I dunno if "Of all time" is OTT or not, but in terms of big, direct impact on how I work/what I do/have done:

  • Peter Cock (among others) for BioPython. For I would be truly lost without it.
  • Torsten Seeman for Prokka and just a generally solid, pragmatic approach for writing very usable bioinformatics software.
  • Heng Li (duh).
  • Elaine Meng/Tom Goddard/Eric Pettersen/Greg Couch (and others no doubt) - Slightly less conventionally perhaps, but no less invaluably to me these guys dilligently answer literally hundreds of queries on the UCSF Chimera user message boards, all the while actively developing the software and documentation etc.
  • Sean Eddy et al.

I'll add more as they come to me.

ADD COMMENTlink 10 months ago Joe 12k
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Joe Felsenstein, without him there would be no "modern" likelihood-based phylogenetics.

ADD COMMENTlink 10 months ago gaberoo • 40
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Oh, and also Peter Schuster for pretty much developing energy landscape calculations for RNA folding. Maybe also add Manfred Eigen to this.

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
gaberoo
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I'll throw Gary Stormo on the list, as he was largely responsible for bringing position weight matrices into play.

Peter Cock, for biopython, and generally just being a very helpful person.

Hadley Wickham.

Fernando Pérez and Brian Granger for coming up iPython (now better known as Jupyter, with support for a heck of a lot more than interactive Python analyses). Did a ton to make the field more accessible.

Bo Peng for taking it to the next level and creating a backend that allows for multiple kernels in the same notebook.

ADD COMMENTlink 10 months ago jared.andrews07 ♦ 2.4k
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Thanks for adding Gary - should have nominated himself. I wanted to work with him in the late 80s, but couldn't find the money and ended up doing my PhD elsewhere.

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
gjacobs
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I would also like to nominate Brian Bushnell for the unbelievely useful BBTools/BBMap Suite.

ADD COMMENTlink 10 months ago jean.elbers ♦ 1.1k
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@Brian is no doubt one of the best (if not the best) java programmers out there.

ADD REPLYlink 10 months ago
genomax
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More subjective choice: Stephen Turner, his Getting Genetics Done blogs helped me to step into bio world.

This post is great, and lists most of the GBOATs:

ADD COMMENTlink 10 months ago zx8754 7.5k
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Jim Kent and Shane Neph, for developing tools and algorithms that are either used directly or indirectly in their toolkits for whole-genome scale work, or reused by others in other toolkits.

ADD COMMENTlink 10 months ago Alex Reynolds 28k

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