Margit Burmeister

Associate Chair and Professor, Computational Medicine & Bioinformatics and Research Professor, Michigan Neuroscience Institute and Professor of Human Genetics and of Psychiatry, University of Michigan


Learn to program and don't be afraid of math.

What do you do?

Most of my job now is to run a Bioinformatics Graduate Program of over 100 MS and PhD students - meaning customizing their course choices, dealing with problems, nominating them for fellowships, training mentors, and trouble shooting mentor issues. I also teach held of two courses. The rest of my time I do research in gene x environment interaction, especially about addiction and depression. Most (non Covid19) years I spent 3 months teaching critical reading of biomedical data science in ShenZhen, China. In my spare time I like to educate the public about science.

Why did you choose this field?

I loved genetics since being a little kid. But genetics wasn't a major so I studied biochemistry - it sounded harder than just biology. Over my years in this field, especially studying brain diseases, more and more data were generated rapidly, so like many biologists, I realized we needed to embrace computing tools and statistical analysis to take advantage of the avalanche of data. So about 10 years ago I joined bioinformatics, and 5 years ago decided to serve as Associate Chair.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

Most discoveries in my field of genetic variants affecting risk for depression were found in huge collaborations and a lot of data science. I was always good at math but loved understanding biology. If I had known how important math is for biology, I probably should have studied math or statistics rather than biochemistry.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I look forward to celebrate my students' successes, even to troubleshoot their problems, and to talk with lab members about potential new genetic discoveries

Best advice for next generation?

Learn to program (many of my students teach high school #girlswhocode!) and don't be afraid of math. But this is today's advice. Keep an open mind for other field and developments - maybe the next generation needs to understand something else. And don't think humanities and religion don't mix with STEM - we only have one scientist politician in Washington but with Angela Merkel we have seen how good science training can help even in politics

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

Rilke - der Schauende: Sein Wachstum ist: der Tiefbesiegte von immer Größerem zu sein. His growth is: To be deeply besieged by ever greater things

NOMINATE a woman in STEM

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