Vasha Dutell


Vasha Dutell

Track: Bioinformatics
Undegrad: University of Oregon, Eugene, OR – Computer Science and Physics
Internship: Stowers Medical Research Institute
Current Job Title: PhD Student at University of California, Berkeley

How did you find yourself at Oregon? What about the program attracted you?
I grew up in Eugene and attended UO during my undergrad in Physics and Computer Science. I was attracted to the program because I wanted to learn the skills and tools needed to apply my computational background to problems in Biology and Neuroscience.

What was the intensive summer like for you?
I had taken a gap year between undergrad and the program, so it was a bit of an adjustment at first to get back into the swing of school, but that didn’t last long. If you are excited about Bioinformatics it’s not hard to spend most of your day immersed in learning it. The summer is intensive but it is definitely possible to be successful, especially because you are in it together with the rest of your cohort.

Where was your internship?
I interned in Dr. Ron Yu’s lab at Stowers Institute for Medical Research.

What was your internship like? What are you responsible for? What is a typical day like?
I was the sole Bioinformatician in our lab, and spent most of my day at my computer analyzing RNA-seq data from the mouse olfactory system. I am interested in Neuroscience, so it was a great fit for me. I was lucky enough to have both my own project, as well as do Bioinformatic analysis for a few other projects headed by other researchers in the lab. Though I was the only Bioinformatician in our lab, there is a great cohort of experienced Bioinformatic Analysts and Genomic Scientists at Stowers, so I was always just a quick elevator ride away from someone who I could consult on a question.

Did you feel the program prepared you for the internship? In what ways?
While 2 semesters can’t teach you everything you’ll need to know, the summer and fall courses at UO gave me a great foundation for my internship. Coming from a computational background with little foundation in Biology, I gained the most from learning about the Biology side of things. Even though I hadn’t mastered any of the Bioinformatics skills by the time I went to my internship, I knew what tools were available, and the basics of how to go about applying them to any problem I encountered.

How did your internship prepare you for your current position/career path?
Even though I’m not using Bioinformatics during my PhD, being comfortable with big data and in an HPC environment has made the transition to my new field that much smoother. The foundation in Biology that I got from the problem also gave me a leg up in the neuroscience courses I took during the early part of my PhD.

Do you have any advice to prospective students?
Keep an open mind about where you’ll do your internship. Opportunities come up in unexpected places, and you don’t want to miss out on one because you are fixated on one thing. Also, any challenges your face during the summer intensive or your internship are well worth the investment in yourself and your career.