You never know where your interests, personal network, and perseverance will lead you in the STEM fields. This couldn’t be more true for Gareth Halladay, a present graduate student in Colorado State University’s Computer Science program. “In my undergrad I had a passion for anatomy and physiology and majored in biological sciences. Now, I look back and I am shocked because I never thought I would be in my current position where I am on the cutting edge of science and helping make new discoveries”.
Read more of Gareth’s interview to find out how she is making a difference by pairing her interests with her computer science skills to draw novel discoveries from hundreds of data sets.
Year in present degree: 2nd Year in the Computer Science Master’s Program
Previous degree & school:
BS in Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University
- What problem will your research help to solve?
A single gene can code for several different types of proteins through a process called alternative splicing. Alternative splicing increases transcript diversity and allows plants to adapt to different conditions. However, what causes a gene to differentiate is still not well understood. While there are hundreds of experiments that focus on a small sets of conditions, there are not many experiments that pull large numbers of conditions together into a meta-analysis and focuses on global patterns. I will be collecting hundreds of publicly available datasets for a plant called A. Thaliana with a goal of gaining new insights into when and under what conditions alternative splicing occurs.
- What helps an individual be successful in this field?
Don’t give up! You never know when a class is going to completely change your future. For me, this was my anatomy and physiology class, and it was during that class that I realized how much fun science could be. Coming back for a computer science degree and being able to combine it with my passion in the life sciences has been an incredible journey.
It is also helpful to get into research – the earlier the better. I did not realize that research was something I could participate in at any point in my academic career. If you find a subject that you are interested in, then read literature that your professor has published and talk to them about their research. You do not have to understand the paper perfectly, ask questions! It is never too early to start learning the concepts and language in that field.
- What advice do you have for school counselors and/or college advisors to help students succeed in STEM?
Encourage students to connect with supportive mentors. I would recommend reaching out to their teachers and faculty in STEM related fields and cultivating relationships with individuals that can be there for them as they proceed in their field. To a large degree I attribute my success to my relationships with my mentors.
Stemcareer.com includes these interviews as part of the GAUSSI Career Planning program under the direction of Rich Feller PhD, Professor of Counseling and Career Development, Colorado State University.