Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field that leverages computation methods to analyze large sets of biological data. The objective of bioinformatics is to use information to query, interpret and draw meaningful findings from biological data.
Bioinformaticians typically work closely with biologists, plant scientists, and computer research scientists, therefore, they need a solid background in biology and computer science. Most bioinformaticians work within different medical science and health fields, including biology, genetics, and pharmaceuticals.
Some professionals come from a biomedical research background while others specialize in computational tools.
Significance Of Bioinformatics to the biomedical field
The field has so far proved to be a major component in life sciences, especially within biomedical sciences. It is also becoming a key influence in biotechnological and biomedical research, clinical practice, and personalized medicine. Through bioinformatics, large sets of biological/genetic data are more efficiently processed, allowing a better understanding of both plant and human genetics.
Desirable properties in plants can now be identified, leading to new discoveries for developing environmentally sustainable solutions for food and energy production.
Through the use of these computational methods employed by bioinformaticians, the genetic basis of human diseases can now be further understood. Bioinformatics has allowed for the better advancement of areas such as oncology, scanning of IVF cells, non-invasive genetic testing, rare genetic diseases, and several other medical fields.
Skills needed to start a career in Bioinformatics
If you decide to pursue a career in bioinformatics, you will need to have impressive critical thinking skill, problem-solving skills, analytical reasoning, and advanced mathematical skills.
In addition to these, you would also need to master these technical skills:
1. Statistical Skills
2. Programming Skills
3. General Biology Knowledge
4. Knowledge of Genomics and Genetics
5. Database Management
6. Data Mining and Machine Learning.
Educational Qualifications Needed To Further A Career In Bioinformatics
To start a career as a Bioinformatician, you will need at least a Master’s degree. There are several undergraduate programs available in bioinformatics or related interdisciplinary fields.
However, applicants for graduate studies do not need to have a BSc in bioinformatics or a related field, they may have bachelor’s degrees in life sciences or computer science. Regardless of an applicant’s first degree, to begin graduate studies in bioinformatics, one would be required to complete coursework in subjects that typically include molecular biology, genetics, chemistry, statistics, and computer programming.
At the Master’s level, you may need to specialize in Bioinformatics, Computational Biology, Epidemiology, or Bio-Statistics. It is highly recommended that you research properly on the areas and application of Bio-informatics which interest you before selecting a speciality, to have a better understanding of what the field covers.
There are two major routes to starting a career in Bioinformatics:
1. To study Computer Science & Engineering for your Bachelor’s degree and then become fluent in the life science terminology of genetics, genomics and cellular biology or
2. To study Biosciences at the Undergraduate level and then pick up skills in data analysis, including statistics, logic, and programming.
A PhD in bioinformatics, computation biology, genetics or genomics is generally required to engage in advanced research and make it to the top of the industry.
Career Prospects in Bioinformatics
With the introduction of information technology in molecular biology, career prospects in Bioinformatics have experienced a demanding increase. Professionals in this field can work in sectors ranging from the pharmaceutical industry, biomedical organizations, biotechnology, research institutions, hospital, and even NGOs. They also find employment in the manufacturing industries of various biomedical products.
After getting the required training needed in the field, there are several career opportunities that can be explored, considering that bioinformaticians have a special skill set, which makes them attractive for companies.
These professionals are likely to find jobs in any of the following roles:
- Individual contributor–Bioinformaticians typically find roles to support a specific area of research in scientific labs, both in the academic and commercial sector.
- Educators – A large percentage of PhD level Bioinformaticians pursue an academic career, start research, and teach at the university level.
- Software developers–Bioinformaticians can also thrive in the development of new algorithms and new tools. Bioinformatics software developers would typically find employment in organizations dedicated to building and deploying computational tools.
Top Universities For a Masters Program in Bioinformatics
UK and Ireland
- University of Manchester
- Cranfield University
- Newcastle University
- Queen’s University Belfast
- National University of Ireland – Galway
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- Boston University
- University of Minnesota
- San Diego State University
- The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
- University of Guelph
- University of Sydney
- Deakin University
- University of Auckland
- Massey University
Top Universities for Graduate Research (PhD) in Bioinformatics
- Oxford University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Stanford University.
- University of California, Los Angeles.
- University of Cambridge.
- University of Washington.
- The University of British Columbia.
- University of Pennsylvania.
- Michigan State University.
- King’s College London.
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