R-Ladies Morelia is celebrating its first anniversary on the 31st of July 2023, and hosting a hybrid event to mark this occasion. In this event, they plan on providing the Center of Mathematical Science at UNAM with an analysis of their recruitment, graduation, and research data.
Nelly Sélem, co-founder and organizer of the group also discussed the group’s rapid growth over the course of a year. She also shared how she uses R for her work as a bioinformatics researcher.
Please share about your background and involvement with the RUGS group.
I am a professor at the Center for Mathematical Sciences at UNAM in Morelia, Mexico. I earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Guanajuato and a master’s degree from CIMAT. Then, I did a Ph.D. and a Post-doctorate in Integrative Biology at the Evolution of Metabolic Diversity lab at Langebio-Cinvestav. I care about teaching. I have taught at prestigious México Universities: UNAM, ITESM, IPN, and CINVESTAV. I contributed to the educational community by developing a metagenomics open-source lesson in “The Carpentries Incubator.” I’m a founder member of BetterLab, a biotechnology and software startup, and I’m also a member of the Mexican SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Surveillance Consortium.
As a scientist, I have proposed and developed bioinformatics solutions to biological problems of comparative genomics of microorganisms. I am interested in the genome evolution of Archaea, Bacteria, and Fungi.
I founded the R Ladies Morelia chapter with Haydee and Claudia last year. We try to organize meetings every month more or less. And this year on our first anniversary we plan to hold a big annual meeting in which we will get to meet more people.
Can you share what the R community is like in Mexico?
I can only talk about the R Ladies chapters in Mexico, as I am more familiar with them. We have several chapters in Mexico and each year there is an annual meeting for all cities.
Our chapter is also growing rapidly as we started with four members and now we have a stable community. On the best days, we have up to 90 people attending our events but on average we have between 12 to 20 attendees.
Most of the R-Ladies chapters in Mexico are being run by people from academia and sponsored by universities. I do know that some of us work in the area of bioinformatics and Bioconductor.
We are also close to the international R community because we are following the R Champions program. I think it’s for Latin America and we are trying to get connected with that program.
You have a Meetup on “Graphics for the Center of Mathematical Science,” can you share more on the topic covered? Why this topic?
For this meetup, which is also our first anniversary, we plan on giving the Center of Mathematical Science, National University of Mexico an evaluation. It would include a comparison of the number of students being graduated each year and the quality standard of researchers against other universities from Mathematics in Mexico and Latin America. The center has sponsored us for the past year, and it is going through the process of becoming a bigger institute.
With this event, we are trying to give back to the center with data analysis of its basic statistics. The audience will learn to use dataframes and ggplot to visualize data. We will be working in teams to teach basic ggplot visualizations. And on the second day, we will be giving small workshops and sharing our work with each other. All our events are Hybrid so this one is also going to be Hybrid and people will attend both physically and virtually.
We hope to grow our community through this event and also contribute to the annual report of the Center of Mathematical Sciences.
Any techniques you recommend using for planning for or during the event? (Github, zoom, other) Can these techniques be used to make your group more inclusive to people that are unable to attend physical events in the future?
Meetup has been very helpful for keeping everything organized, and we use Zoom for our virtual meetings. We also share code through our GitHub repo and people can go back to it after meetings. For communication between organizers, we mostly use WhatsApp chat.
At the start of the semester, we plan events for that semester with dates, speakers, and topics to be covered. We work in teams, so we can help each other. Sometimes we go through chapters of a book, or we just go for an R package. We consider ourselves a community of practice. Even if people don’t know a lot, we do some data analysis and share the code on the meeting day.
Please share about a project you are currently working on or have worked on in the past using the R language. Goal/reason, result, anything interesting, especially related to the industry you work in?
I would like to mention MetaEvoMining, a project one of my undergrad students is working on for his thesis. We are trying to treat metagenomic data in order to look for some gene families that are going through expansions. And maybe these expansions conduce to recruitment into antibiotic gene producers. So we are looking for something different in gene families that may be recruited to new antibiotic gene families. This has been researched in genomes but not in metagenomes and there is a lot more data available in metagenomes. We want to develop an R package for this purpose. For the project, we are using Posit (RStudio). We are also using packages like ggplot and RString. We are also using tidyverse in general.