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Tools for Discovery: Erik Wright

Tools for Discovery is a regular profile series that inspects the computer programs, gadgets and methods behind WID’s ideas and discoveries.

tandem bike
Erik Wright

Erik Wright

Erik Wright is a postdoc in Kalin Vetsigian’s Systems Biology lab. In November 2016, he defended his Ph.D. thesis “Population and community ecology of bacteria from the genus Streptomyces” and has recently published papers in Nature CommunicationsBioinformatics, and BMC Genomics.

Wright is also an avid bicyclist, and can often be found commuting to the WID by bike no matter what the weather. He is easy to spot riding the trails around Madison on a tandem bike with his wife and their son in tow behind.

Wright is currently pursuing academic opportunities at research universities. Recently he shared his tools for discovery:

What do you work on?

I study the ecology and evolution of bacteria that naturally produce antibiotics. Most pharmaceutical antibiotics originally came from a small number of organisms that have produced antibiotics for eons. I work on deciphering how these antibiotics evolved and understanding their effects on the ecology of their producers.

What are your tools for analysis?

Undoubtedly my main tool for analysis is the programming language R. I love the flexibility of the language and the fact that it can be used interactively. Plus, R code can seamlessly interface with code written in C, which allows for a big speed-up when R itself is too slow.

Tools for writing?

I rely heavily on the Papers app to keep track of all my references. It’s a relief to never have to worry about formatting citations to a journal’s specifications. Papers keeps track of thousands of pdf files for me. Writing would be a lot harder without a good citation manager.

Tools for collaboration?

Skype is definitely helpful for collaborating from afar. That said, collaboration is largely about being a good contributor and making time for colleagues. Tools can only go so far in making that possible, the rest is about putting in the effort.

Your ultimate tool for discovery?

My bicycle. A lot of ideas come to me while riding my bike. Perhaps its only because it offers time for thinking, but I like to imagine that there is something special about riding a bike that helps to generate epiphanies.

-curated by Patricia Pointer


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