The DNALC's multi-disciplinary staff has experience in elementary, secondary, and collegiate instruction; biochemistry and molecular biological research; computer programming; design, photography, fine arts, and interior design; science journalism; public relations and development; and opinion research.

  • Administration
  • BioMedia
  • Education & Instruction

Sheldon McKay, Ph.D.

iPlant Education-Outreach-Training Manager

The gentle healing mists of time have erased a lot of detail but I come from Canada and specialized in genetics and evolutionary genetics for my masters and doctoral dissertations, respectively.  Over the course of my career in science, I have been involved mainly with genomics, comparative genomics, and phylogenetics.  The flood of data coming from the various ‘omics fields have been the backdrop of my transition from bench scientist to computational biologist.  Although I started in science peering through microscopes and running gels, it has been more than a decade since I picked up a pipettor, though I have watched with interest as DNA sequencing technologies evolved.

In 2000, a kind and wise postdoctoral advisor at the University of British Columbia sent me out of the lab for a few months to learn to program.  After that, I provided bioinformatics support for his group and a number of other labs in the Vancouver area.  I used to say I was “raised by wolves” in the sense that I was a self-taught programmer.  In 2002, however, I took the Genomic Informatics (now known as Programming for Biology) course at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.  This was a transformative experience, as it opened my eyes to what could be accomplished with bioinformatics, open-source programming, data standards, and collaboration.  I joined Lincoln Stein’s lab at CSHL in 2003, and have been working in bioinformatics ever since.  I have done a lot of work on analytical workflows and scientific software of various types, but the aspects of the work I have enjoyed the most are data visualization and teaching.  I have been involved in many training workshops and even returned to teach at the CSHL programming course.

The past three years I have been working with the iPlant Collaborative, whose charge is to create large-scale cyber-infrastructure for plant sciences, and I eventually relocated to “iPlant central” at the University of Arizona in Tucson.  I continued both software development and outreach and training with iPlant and also with the Generic Model Organism Database project.  Although I enjoyed this immensely, I longed to return to New York and be near my family.  As fate would have it, an iPlant colleague at the DNA Learning Center had a reciprocal longing and we ended up trading places; he moved to join the University of Arizona and I moved the DNALC.

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work at the DNALC.  The opportunity to contribute to development of education and research software, while also delivering high-level training to the scientific user community is a dream job for me. I think my background and desire to contribute to science education and the excellent resources available here will combine to improve an already superlative scientific outreach and education program for both iPlant and the DNALC.

When I am not working, I enjoy gardening and canning and pickling the results.   Before I had children, I used to be a passionate angler and enjoyed anything that involved floating on water.  These days, I find the natural stone fences on Long Island and in New England quite interesting and enjoy making things from natural stone.

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