Forum: Master in statistics or bioinformatics
5
gravatar for indeci
5.5 years ago by
indeci50
Belgium
indeci50 wrote:

Hi everyone, yet another aspiring bioinformatician flooding your message board with a question about degrees and job opportunities. I'm afraid I'm not overly familiar with the world of biology employment, the differences between academia and industry, etc, so any help is much appreciated.

Background information: I'm about to finish my master in biology in Europe, with a strong focus on evolution, ecology and a bit of molecular biology. I've taken some introductory bioinformatics and programming courses. Initially I had my mind set on pursuing a PhD in biology, but I'm starting to doubt. Several of my superiors have hinted at the fact that a solid foundation in statistics, modelling and/or bioinformatics will become more and more important in the future. However, none of them actually had prior experience in bioinformatics, so I'm not sure if I should just take their word for it. I've considered doing a PhD with a focus on these subjects, but I believe I'd rather be taught those concepts in a more traditional curriculum, instead of tackling them myself in between research (European PhD's contain almost no courses). So at the moment I'm considering doing another master's degree with a focus on either statistics or bioinformatics. On to my questions:

  • Is it still true that statistics/bioinformatics will open up many more doors than just a masters in biology? Or is this just something being flaunted around by everyone and his brother?
  • With a degree in statistics, I believe I could apply for jobs outside of biology, even outside of science, sort of as a fallback plan in case finding a job proves too difficult. Would a degree in bioinformatics be much more limited in scope in this sense? Or would both degrees reduce me to an "overqualified"/unsuitable applicant anyway?
  • I've only dabbled in programming a bit, will I forever be at a disadvantage as a biologist compared to a computer scientist? Or would my background instead allow me to find jobs tailored towards this skill set? Basically, I'm afraid most academic/industry employers would rather hire a dedicated computer scientist to collaborate with wet-lab researchers, rather than hiring a jack of all trades master of none applicant. 
  • Will bioinformatics reduce my options to purely computer-based work? I'm not sure if I want to give up all of biology for just computer-based work.
  • Am I correct in assuming that a master degree will give me a better understanding of these topics compared to a (European) PhD degree where I'd have to teach myself the relevant bioinformatics/statistical tools?

 

ADD COMMENTlink modified 5.5 years ago by Felix_Sim250 • written 5.5 years ago by indeci50
4
gravatar for Felix_Sim
5.5 years ago by
Felix_Sim250
United Kingdom
Felix_Sim250 wrote:

I know there are many and very diverse opinions on this, but I am giving you my perspective on one or two aspects of your (very long) question. I am currently in my Masters year doing Biochemistry with focus in Bioinformatics. I will start a Masters in Bioinformatics in September '14 and a (European) PhD in Bioinformatics in September '15. I have been working in several fields including homology modelling, sequence analyses, genome-data handling, evolutionary analyses and general scripting.

Basically, I'm afraid most academic/industry employers would rather hire a dedicated computer scientist to collaborate with wet-lab researchers, rather than hiring a jack of all trades master of none applicant. 

During all of my interviews and conversations with biologists, everyone has always told me that the biological aspect is something that needs to be taught. Learning a programming language needs determination. I am working alongside a computer scientist with over 10 years of industry experience and I've been told that he only received his PhD (improving ROSETTA), because no bioinformatician applied. So I would say, you are in a niche area as a wet-lab & computer-based researcher. 

Will bioinformatics reduce my options to purely computer-based work? I'm not sure if I want to give up all of biology for just computer-based work.

Over the last two years or so, my main focus was to strengthen my knowledge and experience in bioinformatics. I know I am only a 'postgraduate', but I find that working in Academia let's you explore your ideas in the way you like them. I have been offered on several occasions to explore my bioinformatics findings in the lab. These offers were made by senior researchers, who conduct their primary research computer-based. However, I also came across researchers who use bioinformatics to gain insights into ideas or data they obtained in the lab. I think, nothing will reduce you to anything, it just depends on what you make out of it...and that you make clear people around you are aware of this, too (i.e. supervisors).

Am I correct in assuming that a master degree will give me a better understanding of these topics compared to a (European) PhD degree where I'd have to teach myself the relevant bioinformatics/statistical tools?

Similar to the answer above, I think this strongly depends on the area you want to work in. I have always felt the way that bioinformatics is an area that is based on experience. This experience comes by practising and applying your current knowledge to fields you are familiar with. To give you an example, it is easy-ish to run protein modelling in MODELLER, however, it is the experience that let's you judge the quality of the models and handle the software the way you intend. Therefore, a taught Masters degree may give you more ideas, but with that more areas to tackle. I would recommend doing it the 'harder' way, acquiring the skills yourself by applying them to problems straight away and, therefore, "knowing what you are doing" rather than copying someone else.

 

I hope my experiences/answers help you a slight bit. Again, this is my 'novice' experience and nothing general!

 

ADD COMMENTlink modified 5.5 years ago • written 5.5 years ago by Felix_Sim250
Please log in to add an answer.

Help
Access

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement and Privacy Policy.
Powered by Biostar version 2.3.0
Traffic: 764 users visited in the last hour