My experience with WikiPathways has been both educational and interesting. WikiPathways exposes me to current scientific literature and allows me to personally interact with each individual article. Additionally, it is also important for college students to learn effective team building and leadership in a group of peers. Working with this program will also help students understand how to manage time effectively for long term tasks which will be important in future tasks in the college environment.
To accurately map pathways I am required to read and understand the interactions behind gene expression and signaling pathways by going through the literature carefully. This practice allowed me to understand how to look through a scientific article for key information quickly, but thoroughly. This skill is necessary in a college environment where a large number of technical material must be read and understood in a short amount of time. Reading the articles also gave me a great repertoire of knowledge about current research. This was especially indicative when I could name the full name of some proteins, their function, and the molecules they interact with after encountering them several times in different pathways. The learning opportunity is almost infinite in a field of constant research and development.
Writing a detailed description provides the next step to distilling knowledge from the articles, to begin to understand how protein signaling pathways work in a cell or group of cells. Although mapping the pathways from a figure gives me an overall knowledge of the function of a pathway itself, the description requires me to know the interactions between individual components. This requirement forces me to read further into the information we are provided and make connections between certain molecules based on understanding. A reader reading the description should be able to understand the pathway’s function and effectively analyze the pathway, so it must be descriptive yet simple. Finding the right balance, although difficult, helped me develop my writing. This knowledge would be useful in the future when I wish to write scientific literature or even explain it with the basic necessities of summarizing difficult concepts so any person can read and make sense of it.
Working as part of a team in WikiPathways also provided me a personal experience on the importance of sharing information with other scientists to accelerate work in the field. The simple experience of taking figures from several articles and translating them into pathways that can be analyzed by other scientists highlights the importance of cooperation to hasten the progress of science. It gave me a sense of urgency. The more I contribute to WikiPathways, the more scientists can use these pathways in their own projects and speed up advancement. In this way, I felt as if I was a catalyst, or even direct contributor, in the field.
The leadership and team work experience gained from coordinating the work in developing new pathways every week gave me great capability for the future. Leadership and teamwork are skills important for any work in the future, be it for college, or in the workplace where interacting with others in a positive manner will both increase happiness of the group and allow work to be done in a timely manner. Along with this ability, I also understand that a leader needs to listen to group members more than tell them what to do. This was especially apparent when I was stressed that we were behind schedule on a task we needed to finish, but my group members assured me by making me understand that our schedule was flexible and by working together we made a plan that allowed us to finish our task on time. Overall, my experience with WikiPathways was very rewarding and I enjoyed the time I spent on it. For those looking for a great opportunity to immerse themselves into scientific literature and learn both technical information and how to work in a group, this program is perfect. For college students this is a unique experience for those new to the field to learn and veterans to gain experience in bioinformatics.
- Sairisheel Gabbireddy, Student in Physician Scientist Program, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute/Albany Medical School