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Library Expands Bioinformatics Support with Fargo Appointment

By Eddy Ball
July 2008

Robertson, left, and Fargo look forward to helping investigators take advantage of new and existing resources for managing and analyzing the increasing volumes of data generated by advanced methodologies. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

In late May, the NIEHS Library and Information Services Center added a new resource to its staff with the appointment of former bench scientist David Fargo, Ph.D., as Bioinformatics Information Specialist. His appointment is the most recent in a series of developments that have enhanced the library's information services resources for scientists at NIEHS.

According to Director of the Library Dav Robertson, Fargo will help to satisfy a need for bioinformatics support at the NIEHS that was identified in a 2005 assessment of the library. In response to that needs assessment, the library developed its program of "embedded librarians," known formally as informationists, to work more closely with scientists as part of research teams.

Fargo's background includes a doctorate from the Duke University Program in Genetics and Genomics and six years of experience with the University of North Carolina Center for Bioinformatics, serving the UNC system's schools of public health and medicine. In that position, he assessed and disseminated bioinformatics resources statewide to teaching faculty, an effort which involved visiting all 16 campuses to bring together specialists in different disciplines, including the life sciences, statistics, computer science, information technology and mathematics.

During his time at UNC, Fargo also worked in two areas of infrastructure development that should be of special interest to many NIEHS scientists - genome-wide association studies of differential outcomes and next-generation sequencing technologies. Because of experience on the front line of basic research, Fargo said, "I also appreciate what goes on in the laboratory."

As Robertson described the position, it will be evolving as Fargo becomes more familiar with the research going on at NIEHS. "I see this as a consulting role and a collaborative role where he will work very closely with scientists throughout the Institute," Robertson explained, "both those who provide bioinformatics services and those who need those services."

Fargo's services will benefit scientists involved in the increasingly bioinformatics-dependent work in high-throughput screening, toxicogenomics, epigenomics, systems biology and database integration. He will be the NIEHS Library's liaison with the National Library of Medicine and National Center for Biotechnology Information. Additional roles will be bridging the gap between information sciences specialists and research scientists and serving as a resource for information about what bioinformatics tools are available and how well they will work in specific research applications.

"There's a wide range of needs in the field for making the design of a query better fit the needs of the researcher," Fargo observed. "Scientists need tools for managing the sea of data [coming from the use of omics methodologies in larger, systems biology type experiments] - to synthesize it, compare it across different experiments and make it usable for life scientists."

"David has worked with the library at UNC, and he has the service-oriented outlook that is essential to an information service role," Robertson concluded. "His expertise fills in some gaps in our resources and will complement our team of informationists to enable us to provide a more complete service to the Institute's scientists."

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