The Life Bioinformatic with Andrew Lonsdale - Episode 0 - “You need a better microphone.”

4 minute read


The first episode of The Life Bioinformatic begins in Sydney, 2015, at the inaugural  Australian Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Society conference, ABACBS. ABACBS 2015 was hosted at the Garvan Institute, and admittedly half way though the conference dinner, I thought it might be a good idea to start a podcast.  Initially there was scepticism that this podcast was legitimate:

AL: I'm speaking with David Ma, photographer extraordinaire, David, you've taken photos of ABACBS and COMBINE. What do these conferences and symposiums mean to you? 
[.. silence ..]  
DM: You need a better microphone I think. We have some, but I guess it's a little late now.
AL: It is! I had this idea just 20 minutes ago. 
DM: Wait, do you run a podcasts normally? 
AL: Not normally, but this could be the first episode 
DM: What's the name of your podcast? 
AL: Umm, it can be whatever you want it to be be? 
Al: But my idea was the The Life Bioinformatic 
DM: Oh yeah, I love that movie by Wes Anderson, the Life Aquatic. 
AL: Exactly, I'm running for a pun on that, do you think that would work? 
DM: I don't know if it's well known enough.

David was right (possibly on both counts) - the sound quality was such that almost none of it is really suitable for a podcast, and has sat on my phone for the better part of a year. 

But with AB3ACBS 2016 just five weeks away and abstract submissions due this Friday 30th of September (, it seemed as good a time as any to go through it to see if there was anything worth salvaging. I've transcribed the best into this article. I was, and hopefully you will be too, pleasantly surprised by the genuine enthusiasm that came through for the ABACBS conference, despite the late hour and ample amount hospitality being enjoyed at time of recording. 

Although it was the inaugural conference under the umbrella of the newly formed society, it directly led from the great success of the Australian Bioinformatics Conference (ABiC) the year before.  With the new name, and newish society, I started the podcast by asking simple question: 

What does ABACBS mean to you?

Names have been suppressed to protect the innocent (and those who made some terrible jokes). Responses covered three basic themes:  jokes about the ABACBS acronym, Professor David Lovell and his entertaining role as host of the lightning talks, and a genuine appreciation and enthusiasm for the bioinformatics and computational biology community in Australia:
  • "You know it's uh.. just a conference where you've got come and make things know, ABACBS... get. it... like an abacus and you count things?" [Mild laughter in background].
  • I get to see David Lovell once a year.
  • I get to meet other bioinformaticians and hang out with them which is always fun. 
  • Ummmm......bioinformatics....David Lovell being silly...I dunno.
  • Well i thought its going to be about different tools and just learning tools and and just using tools, and bioinformaticy tools, all about tools you know?
  • It means the state of affairs of bioinformatics in Australia.
  • Well firstly, COMBINE beforehand, great, lots of good free food, then ABABCS, also lot a great good free food, uh, some great poster presentations, some great tips and you get to hang out with gods of bioinformatics.
  • Its great opportunity to see my past colleagues, my present colleagues, who knows about the future!
  • Well obviously its a place where Australian bioinformaticians come together, and for me personally its really important thats its accessible to students.
  • What I've enjoyed the most is the chance to meet people I've wanted to to meet for quite a while.
  • ABiC last year was fantastic, and I don't think we could beat it, so at best we've tried to emulate it in a different place.
  • Its a coming together of bioinformatics communities, and that community is so essential because its really open and collaborative environment.
  • It means everything. 
  • Well, its abacus with a SNP. 
  • So its really about bringing the bioinformatics community together, and exchanging ideas and providing feedback to each other and support, and just developing the community. 
  • It signifies a community of people who share a common love of bioinformatics and computational biology, good spirit, good conversations, intellectual generosity, bring on 2016 I say!

The full transcript (which should never see the light of day!) contained more gold, and I might be able to put together a shortened version if I ever get time (read: never) so instead I've produced this word cloud to summarise what ABACBS means to those in attendance last year:

That's it for episode 0 of the podcast, and in Brisbane in November, the Life Bioinformatic will be back for episode 1... this time with a better microphone!