The full title for my graduate school program was “Structural and Computational Biology and Molecular Biophysics”. (A mouthful) Part of why my program had such a long title is because it wanted to encompass a LOT of different things. So, while I was making models and simulations of biological things on a computer, a lot of my classmates were data mining.
This is where you take a large amount of data and look for connections among them. They wanted to see how different drugs affected different types of disease, OR they looked at what gene mutations were common among people with certain cancers. They looked at a lot of different data with a lot of different factors to see if there were any visible trends. They weren’t finding direct causes of things, but they were finding patterns, relationships.
Two main ways for them to present their data were heat maps:
And network diagrams:
Though often the networks are much more COMPLEX, like this:
These network diagrams are the graphs used in a field of study called network theory. This type of study looks at very complex systems to see which pieces are related and what attributes they have in common. The more connections there are, the stronger the argument that they are connected.
Let’s look at a non-medical example to help us better understand the concept.
We’ve all heard of 6-degrees of Kevin Bacon. This is the idea that everyone in Hollywood is only 6-degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, that they’ve been in films with people who have been in films with him. Each of the nodes is an individual actor, and each of the edges is the movie that they have in common. Some people have been in lots of movies, others very few. Here is a VERY small sample to look at.
In medical examples the massive amount of data is patient information, in this example, it’s all movies ever produced. (Note: I made this quickly and probably missed connections) In medical examples the clusters are patients with similar mutations or similar symptoms; in the film example, the clusters are groups of actors who have been in films with each other. This chart is a silly and fun thing for movie enthusiasts to do, but this technique is also a really helpful way for scientists to look at large amounts of data all in one place in order to see what similarities they have or to see which similarities might be important.
When I began this Catechist Scientist journey, one of my first steps was to get a Twitter account. (@istsquared) I needed to get my name out there, but I also wanted to talk to a larger group of people than the ones I saw in person.
The first thing I noticed was how genuinely wonderful these people could be. People from all over the world, coming together through the internet. Then… I noticed how divided they chose to be. All of these different and unique people began to point out the many differences they had, and not always in the most charitable way. You picked sides, made labels, and refused to listen to anyone who was different than yourself.
I considered deleting my account. I didn’t need that kind of stress in my daily life. Luckily, I had seen the goodness first. I had seen the love of God that united us all together.
Sunday June 14th is the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi. Despite how some people choose to act online, we are all united as the Body of Christ. Every single one of us. No matter whether we prefer the Latin Mass or the Novus Ordo Mass or if we have no idea what those two things are, we are all a part of the Body of Christ.
The thing that brings us together is the physical body of Christ, the Eucharist. Not all of us are able to physically receive it right now due to health concerns, but we all long for it and spiritually share in it. As the 2nd reading from the Feast of Corpus Christi says,
“Because the loaf of bread is one, we though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” (1 Cor 10:17)
If all the billions of people past and present and future were a network graph, we would look like this.
Yes, there would be groups of us that have more in common than others, but we would all have at least one thing in common. Christ died for our sins and loves us. We are all united together through Him and this love. Especially right now, with everything going on, this is something we have to remember. This is something that we have to remind each other.
I want to close with words from Pope Francis’ homily on these same Corpus Christi Sunday readings 3 years ago. (Deut 8:2-3,14B-16A, 1 Cor 10:16-17, John 6:51-58) I hope that you will sit with them, pray with them, and really take them to heart.
“May this Bread of unity heal our ambition to lord it over others, to greedily hoard things for ourselves, to foment discord and criticism. May it awaken in us the joy of living in love, without rivalry, jealousy or mean-spirited gossip.”