May 2, 2018

Meet Allen Gies, M.S., Research Associate, DNA Sequencing Core Manager

Allen GiesHow long have you worked for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences?
I’ve worked at UAMS since May of 1997. I’ve had the same position for 21 years.

How long have you been in your current position?
I was recruited here from Kansas State to specifically start the DNA Sequencing Core. UAMS was badly in need of one at the time. People were having to use a common-used instrument at the VA and it was down a lot of the time. We currently offer Sanger Sequencing using a 3500 Genetic Analyzer and Next Generation Sequencing using an Illumina Miseq. We also offer some bioinformatics analysis.

What is your favorite part of the job?
I really enjoy anything involving computers, programming or analysis.

Are there any challenges?
We implemented Next Generation Sequencing 5 years ago and that has been challenging intellectually, though not in a bad way. There was a lot to learn about it and still is. I have a masters in bioinformatics and it really opened the door to a lot of things relating to that, especially concerning data analysis. It can also be very expensive so I stress out (a little) whenever I start a run. I watch it intently until I’m comfortable everything’s going well. I’ve had a few runs go south and that’s not fun at all.

How do you/ your group handle problematic issues?
Prevention is usually the best medicine. The core has excellent support from the university, the dean’s office, and the department head. They are very good about keeping us up to date with service contracts and giving us whatever we need. I’m also grateful to the COBRE PI’s who have been immensely helpful. For sample prep, we have a website with recommendations on the best way to prepare samples that we provide to researchers. However, problems do sometimes occur. When that happens, I either try to troubleshoot or help the customer figure out what they can do to prevent it from occurring again. If it’s our fault, I own up to it and fix it.

Allen Gies with computerHow many samples do you work on annually?
We process about 8000 Sanger sequencing samples per year. The Next Generation Sequencing is sporadic, but we probably average a couple of runs a month.

How about after hours? What do you do for fun?
Here recently, I’ve been meeting up with my sister, her husband, and my niece for family outings. A year ago, we went on a guided fishing tour on the White River up near Mountain Home. We caught lots of trout and then had a big ol’ fish fry with the guide and his very large family.

Just last month, we went on a Caribbean Cruise to Key West and Cozumel, Mexico. I did a “swim with the dolphins” shore excursion in Cozumel and got to interact with them right there in the water. We saw some wild ones too. Awesome, smart animals!

What personal skill or hobby don’t most people know about you?
Nothing spectacular with hobbies, just typical guy stuff – video games and fishing. I play a little guitar, but I don’t practice enough to be very good at it. I enjoy chess (same problem as with the guitar). I usually have a remodeling project in progress at my house.