Mary Makarious is a graduate student interested in bioinformatic and data science approaches to making sense of the multi-omic characteristics of neurodegenerations such as Parkinson’s Disease. Mary was introduced to the AMP PD team about 3 years ago through her work in Dr. Andy Singleton’s NIA Neurogenetics lab, and has since done an amazing job of writing helpful notebooks, trouble-shooting analyses, and generally helping users feel comfortable with the AMP PD platform. If AMP PD has a user-friendly face, it looks just like Mary, and we are thrilled to introduce you to her here.
What is your contribution to AMP PD?
“I’m lucky enough to be involved in a number of working groups internal to AMP PD. In addition to joining a few of the operations calls, I’ve been involved in the whole genome sequences (WGS) working group, the data analysis working group, and the joint WGS and transcriptomics analysis working group. I am involved with the Global Parkinson’s Genetics Program as well, so I act as a liaison between the two initiatives to ensure the best experience for the researcher. My efforts center around listening to the needs of newcomers of the AMP PD initiative and the Terra analysis platform. I also design notebooks, tools, and tutorials to help empower researchers with their own analyses. Additionally, I was involved in the manuscript highlighting the AMP PD genetic resources spearheaded by Dr. Hirotaka Iwaki (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33960523/).”
How did you become interested in research relating to Parkinson’s Disease?
“Initially, my research interests were broader, I was interested in investigating dementia and cognitive decline by leveraging my bioinformatics and computer science background. I came to the NIA Laboratory of Neurogenetics (LNG) after graduating with my bachelor’s degree. During my time here, LNG’s deep commitment to understanding the genomics underlying PD, which stem from the immediate need to identify PD therapeutics really moved me. Current estimates project that about 13 million individuals will be diagnosed with PD by the year 2040. Now, I share that LNG commitment and want to contribute what I can to the understanding of this complex disease across as many diverse groups as possible.”
What is your advice for scientists getting started with PD research?
“My advice, like starting in any new research space, is to look up expert reviews on the aspects of the disease that might be of interest to you. A general PD review is a great place to start but also look into specific aspects to review, such as a review on the genetics of PD, or the economic burden of PD. If you’re interested in researching PD from a computational perspective, AMP PD supplies a number of resources including “Getting Started” notebooks as well as a workshop series where you learn how to navigate and analyze the data. Additionally, the Global Parkinson’s Genetics Program (GP2) has training modules compiled by experts that cover a wide range of topics such as a primer on the genetics of PD, bioinformatic analyses designed for the beginner, and even more advanced analyses for when you’re more comfortable.”