Interview: Xia Wang, AstraZeneca on Big Data and the Promise of Effective Healthcare

We discuss challenges in analyzing text data, Big Data impact on translational bioinformatics, advice, desired skills in data scientists, and more.

AR: Q7. How has the increasing attention on Big Data impacted translational bioinformatics? What trends do you expect in the next 2-3 years?

tbiXW: Well, the TBI (Traumatic brain injury) is a relatively young field in translational research and currently it is partially deployed in clinical research and drug development. For the next couple of years, I expect the increasing attention on Big Data analytics shall boost genome related research, with continuous development of novel techniques for the integration of genomic and clinical data.

Imagine if we can make the connection between next-generation sequencing and millions of electronic healthcare records, we can truly understand how disease biology relates to the human phenome -- that will ultimately revolutionize the development of personalized healthcare and precision medicines.

AR: Q8. What key qualities do you look for when interviewing for Data Science related positions on your team?

right-mindsetXW: When I interview someone to join our team, the first quality I look for is whether the candidates have the right mind set, meaning if they can articulate how data science is logically applied to solve a problem. You must start with knowing the challenges – what is the root cause and what is the path from data to solution, i.e. from data to information to knowledge to decisions.

Along the way they need to demonstrate other key qualities -- required domain knowledge e.g. life science background; technical proficiency e.g. data integration and data mining skills. I also look for team spirit from the candidates, if they have a learning attitude and know how to work collaboratively and productively in a multidisciplinary team setting.

AR: Q9. On a personal note, are there any good books that you have been reading lately and would like to recommend?

robert-peaceXW: The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League” by Jeff Hobbs. An inspiring book about real struggle and tragedy in life, and how we can make things better. Quite a lot of questions here… and not so many answers.