Access Granted? Not So Fast…

We’ve officially hit the midway point of the BSURF program! One thing that I’ve noticed is that time seems to flow differently when you’re sitting at home. Each day seems to pass slowly, but when looking back, it really feels as though the past 4 weeks have flown by.

For my project, the largest hurdle that we’ve encountered so far is securing data access. Because the PCAWG dataset we’re aiming to use is from a large international study and also contains personal information of patients, there’s a multitude of legal checkpoints that have to be passed in order to gain access to the data. For example, I’ve had to complete multiple CITI trainings and fill out a bunch of legal forms to be approved by Duke as an undergraduate researcher. On Dr. Allen’s end, he’s had to deal with even more forms and applications, and having him navigate the process with me has been hugely helpful. To date, the application process for the data has taken almost two months. The good news is that we’re almost at the end of this long road — the ICGC has informed us that their decision will be released within the next week or so!

In the meanwhile, I’ve been able to take up some side work that’ll hopefully come handy when we’re granted data access. First and foremost, I’ve been able to dive deeper into the literature, which has come with its own challenges, but has been extremely rewarding overall. Additionally, I’ve been able to start exploring some of the computational tools I’ll need to work with the data eventually. From Dr. Gersbach’s side, I’ve been able to play around with some of his VCF files so I’ve gotten more familiar with how to work with genomic data files. Hopefully, these skills will translate into working with the PCAWG data as well, whenever we get it.

Although my project has taken an unexpected delay, it’s very exciting that the end is near. It’s been long awaited, and I’m eager to finally dive into the thick of the project. Until next time!

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