Makenzie Whitener, BS May 2018

“I was introduced to Computer Science when I was a Senior in High School. My dad worked for Wake Forest’s CS Department and insisted that I take an AP course to see if I enjoyed the topic. Turns out that Computer Science was one of my passions. From my first semester at Wake Forest University, the Computer Science Department helped me grow and explore the vast array of opportunities within the field. I learned what I liked doing, teaching and programming small scripts to solve problems, and what I didn’t like, software engineering (sorry Dr. Pauca). My time at Wake helped me find where my true passion lies, at the intersection of Computer Science and Biology, bioinformatics. I had the opportunity to do research for 2 years with James Pease who introduced me to the field.  My passion for both Biology and CS has led me to pursue a Ph.D. in Genetics at the University of Georgia.

Here at the University of Georgia as a Ph.D. Candidate I study genome evolution in a polyploid wildflower. My work integrates both the strict biological, I grow and tend my own plants as well as perform the preparation needed to generate genomic data, as well the computational, I write the scripts and programs to analyze genomic data and discover new relationships. I utilize High Performance Computing and my programming skills every day. As computational power increases, the field of biology is becoming more and more integrated with bioinformatics. Most, if not all, of my colleagues use computational tools to assist in their research. After I graduate, I plan to teach at a community college or a small university where I can bring bioinformatics research to students who might not have had the opportunity to explore the field.

I am forever grateful that the WFU CS Department provided me the resources and support to take a not so traditional path to begin to achieve my dreams.”