News Release: People, Research, Teaching

Dec. 17,  2008

Scientist Cited as Rising Star in Genomics Research

Emory's James Taylor Develops Free Software to Analyze Genomic Data

News Article ImageResearcher James Taylor has been named one of 2008's top young investigators by Genome Technology.

Emory University researcher James Taylor has been named one of 2008's top young investigators by Genome Technology, and is featured in a special year-end edition of the magazine devoted to "Tomorrow's PIs." The edition profiles 30 rising stars in genomics research, who were nominated by elite scientists in the field. 

Taylor is an assistant professor whose lab spans two departments at Emory: biology and mathematics and computer science.

"The information needed to build a complex organism like a human being is all encoded in the genome. My lab is interested in trying to understand how that information is encoded," says Taylor, who began his career as a software engineer. "In a sense, we are trying to reverse engineer the genomic basis of the developmental program for a living organism."

Taylor also is addressing the need to make high-throughput data analysis reproducible and easily shared among experimental biologists. In collaboration with Anton Nekrutenko at Penn State, Taylor developed Galaxy – an open-source software system that allows anyone with a laptop to analyze genomic data.

Thousands of analyses are performed on the Galaxy Web site daily, and the application also can be downloaded free and installed in labs that have modest informatics support. The system is designed to handle multiple datasets and collaborative workflows. It automatically tracks and logs every step used in an analysis.

"Galaxy provides an infrastructure for analytical methods that are accessible, understandable and reusable," says Taylor, who is continuing to expand and refine Galaxy in his role as principal programmer. "As computer tools become more sophisticated, it's critical to provide every detail of how an analysis is done, in ways that are verifiable. If you can't reproduce the results, you can't really trust them."

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