• Faces of AMIA

    Jessica D. Tenenbaum, PhD

    Informatics has been the perfect combination of my passion for biology, and making people’s health better.

Jessica D. Tenenbaum, PhD

Current Affiliation: Assistant Professor, Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Division of Translational Informatics, Duke University School of Medicine
Education: 2007, PhD, Biomedical Informatics, Stanford University
1996, AB, Biology, Harvard University

How do I describe my work to those outside the field …

I ask them if they’ve heard of the human genome project, and some have and some have not. Then I say, that is a massive amount of data and no longer can biologists and researchers just do experiments, look at the results and say here’s our new information. Instead, we need computers to store and manage the data, to perform the analysis, and generally to help identify the new knowledge. And that’s in research. At the same time in clinical care, we’ve got electronic health records now which have opened up a whole realm of both interface problems to solve and data use opportunities. That’s how I explain informatics overall.
In terms of what I do, I help build the infrastructure to manage these large data sets and turn data into information, and information into knowledge.

Years of experience:

Eight years in biomedical informatics since my PhD, plus six years at Microsoft before I went back to grad school.

Why Informatics?

Informatics has been the perfect combination of my passion for biology, and making people’s health better. It also utilizes my love of computer science, programming, and thinking about data and algorithms, and getting to write code.

What are your ambitions? At the end of your career, what do you hope to have accomplished?

I hope to have played a role in enabling the practice of precision medicine and improving human health. I don’t anticipate I will make any incredible Nobel Prize winning discovery, but in this data-driven landscape, there are a lot of informatics challenges to be solved that will facilitate those discoveries. Also, translating the scientific discoveries into clinical practice is just as important – making sure patients actually see benefit from those discoveries. Informatics innovation and translation are where I hope to contribute.

Who or what are your “key sources” in the informatics field?

Genome Web, is an excellent resource. And Twitter, if you follow the right people. Who knew? And of course JAMIA, and JBI (Journal of Biomedical Informatics)

Articles that spotlight my research interest …

Hobbies/Interests outside AMIA ...

I have 5-year-old twin boys and hanging out with them keeps me pretty busy on weekends. Before they came along, I really liked biking and camping, and making stained glass windows. I plan to get back to those someday.

AMIA is important to me because ...

Because it exposes me to amazing people in the field who I probably otherwise would not have as much contact with. I also think it helped me disseminate my own work and build up a reputation in the field. It’s a cliché, but so much depends on who you know. AMIA helps me know a lot of people.

I am involved with AMIA ...

Right now I’m Chair of the Genomics and Translational Bioinformatics Working Group, and I am on the board of directors. A few years ago I started organizing Women in Informatics Networking Events (WINE) at the spring and fall meetings. It’s been great to see the enthusiasm for those. I’ve also been involved in a few other ad hoc committees along the way.

It may surprise people to know ...

I was a volunteer diver for the Seattle aquarium and use to feed fish and (small) sharks, and play “scissor-paper-rock” with kids through the tank window.

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