What is your position at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln?
I am an associate professor and computational biologist in the Food Science Department.
What drew you to the University of Nebraska—Lincoln?
I was on faculty at Northern Illinois University for six years before joining Nebraska in January of 2019. I was happy with my life in the great Chicago area, but felt that I could do better for my research career. UNL has recently built the Food for Health Center. In the center, world-leading scientists with different expertise and backgrounds are collaborating with each other to study how our diets can affect human health through the microbes living in our gut. I am very excited to be part of the team!
What aspect of working in an educational setting do you enjoy the most?
There are two aspects: academic freedom, which means that you can choose research directions based on your own interests (but better to be interesting to others too so that it can get funded or be useful to other people); and secondly, impact on the younger generation, which means that your knowledge can be passed on to your students in the classroom and in the lab, or through your publications that may be still read by others 20 years or more after.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I have developed a number of computational biology programs and databases in the past ten years. Luckily there is one online database widely used by tens of thousands of researchers all over the world. I am very happy to see that each day people visit our website and use our tool to analyze their data. It always makes my day when I receive an email saying something like, "thank you for developing this tool and it has been very useful for my project.”
What is something that most people don't know about you?
When I was in high school, my favorite subject was history and humanity. I never thought I would become a professor with a doctorate in bioinformatics and teaching computational biology with a lot of math and stats in it.
What is your life like outside of work?
My wife and I have two kids. I used to take my daughter to her swimming practice every day. She is now more into dancing after we moved to Lincoln. But I expect my son will be on the swimming team soon and I would love to drive him to swimming practice every day, because I myself swim at least three days a week.