Qi Sun

Principal Investigator

Contact Information:

Computational Biology Service Unit

Life Sciences Core Laboratories Center

Cornell University

618 Rhodes Hall Ithaca, NY  14853

e-mail: qisun@cornell.edu


Project Role:
As a co-PI of the maize genetic diversity project, my main responsibility is project database management, and the genomics reference framework that research work for this project can be built on. My office is not in a biology building, but in the building where house the Cornell’s Center for Advanced Computing, and all the university’s super computers. My group manage data server, computing clusters used for this project, and doing analysis of some of the high throughput DNA sequencing data generated from this project.

Why I Became a Scientist:
Before college, I was interested in science, but clueless about which direction I would like to pursue as a career. My high school biology teacher convinced me that next big question in science is biology, so I joined her biology club, and ended up majoring in biology at Fudan University in China. I followed a path pretty much all biologists have followed. After college, I went to graduate school and got my Ph.D. in genetics from Caltech, and became a postdoc at Harvard Medical School. If everything worked as planned, I would then find a faculty position in a university, and continued my research career in the academic world.


But, not everything works as planned. My postdoc research work at Harvard did not go smoothly, and I had second thought about what I really want to do. A friend of mine, who was working for a startup bioinformatics company, offered me a job. At that time, the first draft of human genome sequence was just finished, and biology was starting a transition from small data science to big data science. Bioinformatics emerged as a new research area dealing with big research data in biology. It was new for everyone, companies had to recruit people from either biology side, or computer science/mathematics side, as there were almost no trained bioinformaticians at that time.  I was really good at computer programming and math at high school, but had not touched it while I was following my classic career path as a geneticist.  The new job offer was a great opportunity to me, and I felt it was an area with a bright future.  So I took the position, started to pick up my math and programming skill.

Then my wife got a faculty position from Cornell, and I moved to Ithaca with her, and got a job offer at the bioinformatics facility. Cornell has a group of great plant geneticists. I started to have collaborations with them, and working together on some really interesting projects. 15 years ago, I would never thought I would be doing research on plants. But now, I really enjoyed the work on plant genomics, and collaborating with plant breeders, and I would proudly call myself a bioinformatician specializing in plant genomics.  


Panzea was funded by the National Science Foundation, Plant Genome Research Project, award #1238014: “The Biology of Rare Alleles in Maize and Its Wild Relatives”; the research groups on this project were also supported by the USDA-ARS, their home institutions, and/or various other sources of funding.