Changing the way we think about data
Gregory Gloor, PhD, hates being wrong. And as someone who works with, and analyzes, an enormous amount of data on a daily basis, it’s not only a useful virtue to possess — it’s an essential one.
“There is a disconnect between the tools that researchers use and the data we are generating, because if we’re not extremely careful the information won’t always be accurate,” Gloor said. “The role that I primarily play in my collaborative research projects is to ensure we’re analyzing data in a way that’s rigorous, even if it makes the process more difficult.”
Gloor, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry, has taken on this roll in two main collaborative research projects.
The first project focuses on protein evolution. Alongside collaborators Stanley Dunn, PhD, and David Edgell, PhD, Gloor is trying to understand how proteins change sequence yet maintain the same structure and function. It’s basic research that could potentially lead to gene therapy in the long-term.
The second project — which is the largest component to Gloor’s work — is a collaboration with Gregor Reid, PhD. It focuses on the human microbiome, or the microorganisms found in and on our bodies.
“All organisms have DNA in them, and that DNA makes up their genome,” he explained. “Inside of us, we have many different genomes — we have our own human genome, but we also have the bacteria that live on and inside us that have their own independent genome.”
He and Reid are trying to learn how those bacteria contribute to human health, well-being and disease. For example, they would like to know whether or not probiotics can be beneficial, and if so, what the mechanisms are behind that benefit.
“It all comes down to the same thing: bacteria can be good or bad,” Gloor said. “The majority of bacteria are probably either good or neutral, but we’re just trying to figure out if they’re helping us and how they are doing it.”
After completing his PhD in biochemistry at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, Gloor took on a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he worked on fruit fly genetics. He got his first appointment at Memorial University in Newfoundland, and eventually found himself back working in London, Ontario.
Since joining the School as a faculty member, he has been focused on the approach he takes to his research, committed to ensuring the way he and his collaborators are collecting information is the best way.
“I would say the majority of scientists are focused on one particular research goal and will do whatever they can to make that happen,” he said. “I’m more interested in the way we are achieving those goals, even though it can be a challenging, uphill battle.”