Three days ago I began a new job as a Research Assistant. I have a bachelor's and master's degree in Biology, and have a very small experience with coding, database management, and bioinformatics in general that comes from younger years when I toyed with turning my computer into a Linux system and attempting to learn code.
With that being said, I am not scared of a terminal window and I'm confident in my ability to "complete" tasks using online resources. Notice I said 'complete' and not entirely 'understand'. I mean I can probably download a tool (for instance, bedtools) and then find a command line prompt entry from another user and then use it to complete a task I have been assigned.
Now the reason I'm here: I have background in academic research, and when applying for this position I was told that I'd have to manage a MySQL database, and potentially work with python script pipeline that has already been written by someone else. Now I have some experience in MySQL databases, I can run commands (
count(*), create a DB, create a table, etc.) and I have a little bit of experience with Python scripting (I could potentially write very short, basic scripts if required). After having interviewed, I was offered the position.
My first two days I was tasked with recreating images (boxplots, heatmaps, annotation of peaks) from a paper that a lab member had generated. This was extremely easy ... The python scripts were already written, I literally just had to open up a command line and follow some very broad documentation that was provided to me by the graduate student on how to generate all these images and type in a command and poof these images were generated for me.
Now however, I am the ONLY computer-enabled person in my lab, and I have officially taken on the role of "lead Bioinformaticist" or "computer guy" as they call me. The PI has told me that my first few weeks are going to be dedicated to taking care of our current MySQL database, and python script pipeline and helping other members of the lab generate computational analysis data before I start "lab research" which is what I am trained in. This scares me, because I have Ph.D and Post Doc students asking me to help them generate either images or databases of peaks, or information that I just don't know how to begin generating. Being only my fourth day into this type of work I am very afraid that I will be un-able to complete these projects or help these students get the information they require to finish their dissertations.
I've spent hours researching online how to try and get the information they require, but I'm often met with technical answers that I only understand at literal value (for example, if I am attempting to research how to analyze ChIP-Seq data to find peak overlaps within four different BED files, I will usually find some sort of
run multiintersectBED -a -b FILENAME FILENAME > OUTPUTNAME and if I happen to be unable to get this command to run ... then I'm pretty much shit out of luck and have to find another command that will hopefully work.
I guess the question I'm asking here is: is this type of work something I can learn with no previous experience on the job? If I have absolutely no idea how to generate bioinformatic data that someone asks for and I can not find or comprehend the information online then how would I ever start learning how to generate this data? (please keep in mind, no one in my lab would be of any use, even the PI) ... How do I practice common practices such as DNA alignment, gene and protein peak annotation, creation of bigwig files, bedgraph files and many other tasks I have completed over the last few days without access to the scripts already designed in the computer? How did the old lab member (who was a computer science guy) even begin to create these scripts? (I don't have access to his e-mail, and even if I did I am not sure he would take the time to teach me how he built these scripts from the ground up).
I know the questions are broad, but I'm panicking.
Thank you for any help.