Forum:Change career path
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Entering edit mode
6.5 years ago

There was a similar question on this topic.

However my situation is a little bit different: I'm already PhD in materials science.

However my situation is a little bit different: I'm already PhD in materials science.

Bioinformatics is something I've discovered lately - it simply wasn't there, when I was starting my studies over decade ago. However I am keen on this ever since. Bu it’s future and I want to be there when it comes. So what now?

I know, there is heaps of resources for LEARNING bioinformatics. But how to steer my career trajectory into DOING bioinformatics?

All job opportunities I can see require very skilled and well-oriented individuals. Masters is a must. Despite common opinion, that there is lack of people for doing bioinformatics I simply can not find any offer suitable for someone like me.

Despite materials science in the title of my diploma I was doing microbiology, scripting, programming, image treatment etc. I can start humble - no problem. I bring problem solving skills proven by PhD diploma, scientific literacy, excellence in science, genuine interest in the field of biology. And that is seemingly not enough.

Most upvoted answer from previous post was to “worry about building useful things”. It’s not something I can do alone. What would You recommend? Starting everything over? Sending mails to laboratory heads?

Please – You are wonderful community, and since You are “on the other side of the barricade”, Your opinion means a lot for me.

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Entering edit mode
6.5 years ago
Mary 11k

Ok, so my advice is somewhat...er...aged. I did this kind of thing going on 20 years ago, before there was a formal "bioinformatics" track of any kind. But hear me out.

I could see the computational stuff coming--it was the mid-1990s. I loved spending days in the back of the lab mining stuff nobody had ever seen out of the GenBank submissions. There was a ton of EST data from library screens that had been submitted, but nobody had really looked hard at yet. In one afternoon I found more splice variants in our lab's genes of interest than we had doing benchwork.

So what I did was I chose a post-doc that was one foot in the old world, and one foot in the new era. I used my interest and grasp of mouse gene expression data to move to The Jackson Lab and become part of the new Gene Expression Database. I had the domain knowledge from the biology, and could help with things about the necessary data that needed to be captured, curation challenges, what biologists would search for, etc. And while there, I learned SQL, and I worked with software engineers, and I really liked that place between the 2 worlds.

What I am suggesting is this: build on your materials science background. Find a niche that has one foot in both. For example, I know they are 3D printing organs now, right? Here are 2 recent examples that I happened to think were very cool:

https://www.twitter.com/statnews/status/656174802911129600

https://www.twitter.com/statnews/status/660506539762057216

So if you found yourself in one of these types of research teams, they would value your materials science background. While there, you can pick up knowledge from the biologists. You can also take more classes. You can find out what would be most useful on this topic. I also think this has a huge future potential, and someone who can work on a team of this nature would be golden and well positioned for what's to come.

I can't promise you it would work. But it worked for me and it seems to me it could still be a good bridge strategy.

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6.5 years ago

It is not unlike any other employment problem. You need to demonstrate that you can solve problems. You need to gain credibility by enrolling into programs that you can do and by building up a track record of solving problems.

Unlike any other field bioinformatics is probably the among the few where it is possible to both learn on your own and also demonstrate that you understand the concepts that are of value for others.

As for track record, I keep suggesting this to students and I will do it again here. Do you know what would impress me the most in a job interview?

If someone brought me a worked out pipeline for one or more already published high impact bioinformatics related papers. Take a paper, read the supplementary information, redo the analysis (or just a small subsection of it, say on a single chromosome etc.) Now solve it with a different tool or technique. What changed? Tell me how you did it, what your learned, what the challenges were etc. I would trust this person's skills far more than having a degree or their own publication list.

Because that is the real applied bioinformatics - where most jobs are and will be. Understanding and applying existing methods and technologies in an efficient manner.

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Entering edit mode
6.5 years ago

A postdoctoral position is a great way to get things going.

http://www.bioinformatics.org/jobs/

You might also consider a program like this one: http://insighthealthdata.com/

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To get, postdoc You need t be preferrably PhD in bioinformatics... Boy, I've been trying this option to much to believe in that any more. I'll try second - it looks very interesting. Thanks for answer!

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Not true about needing a PhD in bioinformatics for a postdoc in bioinformatics. From what I have seen, postdocs in bioinformatics are more commonly from other fields such as biology, physics, computer science, statistics, math, engineering. This is changing as bioinformatics programs become more prevalent. I wish I had numbers to support my claim....

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I went ahead and started a little informal survey: Quick four-question survey on bioinformatics postdoc career path

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For what it's worth, few (around 1/3rd I think) of the dozen or so bioinformaticians at my institute have PhDs in bioinformatics. That's not even a prerequisite when we look for post-docs.

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