Dec 30, 2021 • 1HR 13M

R. Taylor Raborn: evolutionary genetics, good enough for government work

A biologist's journey from academia to government

Razib Khan
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This week on the Unsupervised Learning podcast, R. Taylor Raborn, a genomicist and associate bioinformatics principal investigator at the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) joins Razib to discuss his current and former research interests, touching on the unpredictable path a career in science can take. 

Taylor was drawn to biology at a young age due to his naturalist bent. Eventually, as a graduate student, he became particularly interested in the topics of gene-promoter evolution and cis-regulatory differences in populations among eukaryotes. These are keys to gene regulation, the process that massages the raw read-out of DNA sequence so that it can be tapped to produce the wide array of proteins and structures that contribute to an organism’s phenotypic variation. 

The conversation also veers into evolutionary topics, considering why species across millions of years and thousands of taxa all utilize meiosis, despite the two-fold cost of maintaining dimorphism between sexes. After some technical deep-dive into the particularities of the subject, Razib and Taylor are left reflecting on the staggering amount of data geneticists have in 2021.

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Finally, they reflect on the past two years of COVID-19, and the role it has played in Taylor's new position at the NBACC. After years as an evolutionary geneticist in academia pondering basic science questions, he is now planning for and responding to real-world biological threats to the United States. 

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