International DFG Research Training Group "DiDy"
(GRK 1906, 10/2013-09/2019)

It is a common trend in many of the natural sciences that experimental data production surpasses the capabilities of data interpretation. This has become particularly visible in molecular biology and genetics with the advent of “second generation” sequencing methods, which can produce billions of DNA base pairs from complex samples within just a few days. Moreover, the recent introduction of "third generation" technologies shows that this trend is going to persist for years to come.

Through the technological advances not only more genomic data are produced, but also new scientific questions can and will be addressed, like single-cell or metagenomics studies. Many of these questions have in common that they regard the relationship of individuals within larger populations. Understanding both the variation between individuals (diversity) and the change in populations over time (dynamics) are essential to fully comprehend biological systems.

In the joint graduate program of Bielefeld University (Germany) and Simon Fraser University (Burnaby/Surrey/Vancouver, Canada), we train young academics to be able to develop methods of high importance for the practical analysis of genome diversity and dynamics. In contrast to other programs that focus on the application of established methods and their adaptation to the new data types, we will direct our research to the specific new algorithms required for questions of diversity and dynamics, and to the computational paradigms to be exploited for their successful application in practice. This encompasses research in five main areas: (A) enhancing computational capacity, (B) basic storage and retrieval, (C) algorithms for analysis of sequential data, (D) algorithms for analysis of structural and network data, and (E) methods for interactive analysis and visualization of results.

Both Bielefeld University and Simon Fraser University are young, research-oriented universities, ranked within the top 50 positions in the recent Times Higher Education “100 Under 50” university rankings. They are among the leading institutions in their countries with respect to the development of bioinformatics algorithms and software. Still, there are a number of individual points where we have identified a clear gain by joining forces and bringing together expertise from both sides. In a joint effort, we offer a challenging, collaborative research environment in which graduate students are trained so that they become well-educated young researchers, qualified for the international academic and non-academic job market.