This post was written by Ph.D. Candidate Hanny Rivera
A softly illuminated castle stood overlooking the snow-blanketed streets of Cesky Krumlov, a medieval village tucked away in southern Czech Republic. I walked slowly towards the town square dragging my luggage over the rugged cobblestone streets, conversing with a fellow scientist also here for an intensive workshop to learn, and with some luck, begin to master the ever increasing suite of tools and programs used by biologists to explore the genetic variation that shapes the world around us.
Molecular biology has come a long way since the mid 20th century when Rosalin Franklin, James Watson, and Francis Crick unraveled the structure of DNA. Today, DNA sequencing machines produce hundreds of millions of sequences. The questions and processes that you can ask using modern technologies seems endless and ever expanding as techniques become more and more sophisticated. From comparing DNA sequences between organisms in order to understand the evolutionary relationships between species, to exploring how an organism responds to different conditions by expressing different proteins. Scientists are only beginning to uncover a wealth of information from the DNA sequence itself as well as how that basic blueprint is interpreted and used.