As the associate dean of research for the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, a professor of cellular and molecular medicine and a professor of molecular and cellular biology, it’s fair to say that Parker Antin knows how to keep himself busy.
“I’m a cardiovascular biology researcher. My background is studying early heart development to help understand early birth defects in humans,” Antin said. “More recently, my work has gone more towards bioinformatics—running some database projects for the National Science Foundation.”
The database project for the National Science Foundation that Antin refers to is the $100 million CyVerse project, for which Antin is the principal investigator. The project, originally called the iPlant Collaborative, collects and stores data for sharing and analyzing. The UA is the lead institution in the CyVerse project, but the project is also working with the Texas Advanced Computing Center, the University of North Carolina and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories in New York.
“CyVerse builds what’s called ‘cyber infrastructure’ for life sciences. That means that it creates an environment where scientists can store and manage data and do large scale data analysis,” Antin said. “This is really about transformational technology that is changing the way people are doing science. Every day we’re learning about new ways people are using our infrastructure and creating new discoveries. We do the cliché of what we call taking data and creating knowledge from data.”
Antin’s cardiovascular research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health since the mid 1990s. The research focuses mainly on the understanding of congenial heart defects. He does this by studying chicken embryo’s, which develop similarly to human embryos. One very important similarity between human and chicken embryos is that they have approximately the same amount of genes.
“I work with scientists in a number of different ways,” Antin said. “We’re beginning a project with the College of Engineering in an area called space object behavioral sciences, which seeks to identify and understand the movements of everything in orbit around the earth."
Last year, Antin served a one-year term as president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology board of directors.
With over 135,000 members in 30 societies, the federation’s mission is to provide a policy voice for researchers across the country. As president, Antin worked to create a more open dialogue between researchers and policymakers in the hopes of advancing scientific research.
“What I enjoy most about my research is that I’m able to do a lot of diverse things. I’m able to interact with interesting and smart people,” Antin said. “I think some of what we do can really make a difference and is transformational.”
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