Micaela Parker

Data Science in Academia
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Micaela Parker

Micaela Parker is the Founder and Executive Director of the Academic Data Science Alliance (ADSA). This community building and advocacy organization seeks to advance the uptake of data science best practices in higher education. ADSA supports university researchers in their efforts to learn, use, and teach data-intensive tools, methods, and responsible applications. ADSA seeks to bring about the institutional changes needed to integrate data science into university research and training. By building networks of academic data science practitioners (including faculty, students, staff, and administrators), ADSA enables better sharing of knowledge, ideas, and lessons learned. ADSA grew out of the Moore-Sloan Data Science Environments (MSDSE) and borrows heavily from the culture and values of this partnership.

Prior to launching ADSA, Micaela served as the Program Coordinator for the MSDSE. She met regularly with the three university partners (New York University, University of California, Berkeley; and the University of Washington) and the two foundations (the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation) to help with the coordination of joint activities and white papers.

From 2014 to 2019, Micaela was an Executive Director for the eScience Institute on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. In this role, she handled operations, developed research and training programs, participated in strategic planning, had fiscal oversight of the budgets, and served as the primary contact for university and industry partners, funding agencies, and the public. Micaela is currently a Data Science Fellow with the eScience Institute.

Micaela has a Ph.D. and a Masters degree in Oceanography from the University of Washington. Prior to joining eScience in 2014, she was a senior research scientist in the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington. She has been involved in many large, interdisciplinary research projects bridging oceanography and genomics/(meta)transcriptomics of non-model organisms.

For her Ph.D. thesis, she combined molecular tools and bioinformatics with physiology experiments to better understand the worldwide success of marine diatoms, focusing primarily on their metabolic cycling of carbon and nitrogen during photorespiration. Through this work, she became interested in diatom-microbe interactions. Photorespiration produces by-products that can be released from diatoms and shape bacterial communities. Micaela’s interest in microbial interactions actually began during pre-doctoral studies in plant pathology at Cornell University where she worked on both plant responses to, and biocontrol agents for, bacterial pathogens. Following her Ph.D. in 2004, she became involved in several microbial interaction and metabolic studies as a research scientist and coordinator for the Pacific Northwest Center for Human Health and Ocean Studies and the Center for Environmental Genomics at the University of Washington in the School of Oceanography. In various studies, she has used comparative functional and evolutionary genomics, whole-cell transcriptomics (RNASeq), and environmental metatranscriptomics to better understand the evolutionary and metabolic patterns that underpin diatom successes in different marine environments, including low iron conditions. In collaboration with the Joint Genome Institute, she led the sequencing of a draft genome for Pseudo-nitzschia multiseries, a toxin-producing diatom. The toxin, domoic acid, can accumulate in shellfish, including bivalves commonly consumed by sea birds, marine mammals, and humans. The resulting toxicity is known as amnesic shellfish poisoning.

Micaela also worked for a number of years on the model diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana, including using high throughput sequencing technologies for genome re-sequencing of multiple strains of T. pseudonana. She has participated in several genome annotations of various marine algae. Her involvement in these projects was often driven by a deep interest in understanding the extent that microbial interactions shape diatom genomes, their physiology, and metabolism.

Micaela received her M.S. in Oceanography from the University of Washington in 1999, focusing on the relationship between the hydrology of Puget Sound and the distribution of bivalve populations using genetic markers.  Oceanography was not alone in the sudden data deluge that followed advances in instrumentation, algorithms, and compute capabilities. Witnessing the shift to a large data domain science, Micaela appreciates the new data-driven world for all its benefits and challenges. She now enjoys facilitating research collaborations to help domain scientists navigate this fourth scientific paradigm.

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I gratefully acknowledge that I am living and learning on the shared and largely unceded traditional territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip, and Muckleshoot nations.

Community building, Alternate career paths in academia, Oceanography, Marine genomics and transcriptomics