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Genome Café Serves Up Science

Gene researchers from diverse disciplines now have a new space at the School for collaborative work.

by Kristi Birch

The Bloomberg School's new Genome Café offers pods of boomerang-shaped tables, high-powered computers and comfortable meeting space—just don't expect baristas or mocha lattes.

Housed on the Wolfe Street Building's third floor, the café opened this spring as a collaborative space where researchers from Biostatistics, Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, and Epidemiology could meet and brainstorm genomics issues. The study of genes and their functions, genomics is believed to be key to understanding and curing human disease.

"A student in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology may be doing research in the genetics of malaria and need to interact with someone who has worked on that data before, maybe a biostatistician," explains Giovanni Parmigiani, PhD, professor of Oncology, with a joint appointment in Biostatistics. "They would go there to do data analysis and know people in this environment."

A high-performance scientific computing cluster—a collection of computers run by a central computer that divvies up computationally intensive tasks—enables researchers who study such things as protein folding and epigenetics to perform sophisticated computational analyses.

"We originally thought we'd call it a lab but we decided on café because we wanted to emphasize the interactive side of it," says Parmigiani.

So where's the java? "Actually, we had a heated debate on that, but we decided it would be too messy," he says.