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Pete Pascuzzi - Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies

Dr. Pete Pascuzzi in the Wilmeth Active Learning Center at Purdue University (Photo by Purdue Marketing & Media). This article is one in a “Faculty Footprints” series to highlight the work of faculty in Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies during the Purdue Sesquicentennial Campaign, “Take Giant Leaps.” Read more about the 150th anniversary celebration at takegiantleaps.com.

Purdue Libraries Assistant Professor Pete Pascuzzi helps researchers dig deeper into their research data. A biochemistry and bioinformatics expert, Pascuzzi is making an impact in Purdue University’s contributions to biological and biochemical research by teaching faculty and students how to use web-based and open-source tools—tools they can use to better analyze and understand their data.

“Pete’s unique perspective and skill set bridge the traditional roles of the library, i.e., information management and analysis, with an important area of modern biology, bioinformatics, and big data analysis,” explained James Fleet, Distinguished Professor, Purdue University Department of Nutrition Science.

Fleet came to know Pascuzzi through a National Institutes of Health-funded research project, “Big Data Training for Translational Omic Research,” a collaboration with Min Zhang (Department of Statistics) and Wanqing Liu (Wayne State University).

“I had heard about Pete’s skills as a bioinformatician and an educator, and I knew he was the piece we needed to round out our team,” Fleet said. “His contribution to our course was necessary for its success. In addition, he has been instrumental in establishing core bioinformatics and data management/analysis courses for the biochemistry department.”

Image Courtesy of Peter Pascuzzi. “A gene expression pattern for 21 transporter genes was retrieved from CellMiner and visualized with CellMiner Companion.” Image is a figure from the article, “CellMiner Companion: an interactive web application to explore CellMiner NCI-60 data"

“A gene expression pattern for 21 transporter genes was retrieved from CellMiner and visualized with CellMiner Companion.” Heatmap image is a figure from the article “CellMiner Companion: an interactive web application to explore CellMiner NCI-60 data.” Image courtesy of Pete Pascuzzi.

In the recent past, Pascuzzi developed the CellMiner Companion application, one of the open-source tools he teaches researchers to use. “CellMiner Companion is a web application that facilitates the exploration and visualization of output from CellMiner, further increasing the accessibility of NCI-60 data,” states the abstract of the article on pubmed.gov.

CellMiner is a database and web application developed by the National Cancer Institute. Researchers can query the database for gene expression and drug sensitivity data for cancer cells; however, a single query can generate more than 100 files. Many researchers lack the skills to integrate this data, Pascuzzi noted.

“Generating a plot, from publicly available data on cancer cells, isn’t revolutionary. What is revolutionary is that I was able to do it myself—and I am able to teach just about anybody how to do something like that,” he explained. “The technology and data access have moved so quickly that projects like that have become trivial. A decade ago, that would have been a major project. Now it is just all out there.”

Pascuzzi also teaches 400-600 level courses in both biochemistry (BCHM) and information and library studies (ILS), including the ILS 595 course, “Data Management at the Bench” (which he co-teaches with Purdue Libraries and School of Information Studies faculty Megan Sapp Nelson and Chao Cai).

“With the work I do here at Purdue, I really want to make an impact on the science, but more importantly, having been a graduate student, I have a lot of empathy with people who get stuck in a place because they don’t have the data skills they need,” Pascuzzi said. “So I have always made a lot of effort to understand what the graduate students need, and that is what motivates a lot of the teaching I do.”


Pascuzzi studied biology and chemistry as an undergraduate, and he earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry at Cornell. As a Libraries and School of Information Studies faculty member in life sciences, Pascuzzi’s subject areas at Purdue include biochemistry, bioinformatics, medicinal chemistry, molecular biosciences, and molecular pharmacology.


Article by Teresa Koltzenburg, Director of Strategic Communication, Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies