Forum: Advice for someone considering bioinformatics?
gravatar for Sarahlwilliamson
4.0 years ago by
Sarahlwilliamson20 wrote:

I'm currently in third year of a Bsc Neuroscience degree, however after (admittedly minor) experience using programmes such as R, SPSS and minitab I have began considering bioinformatics as a potential career route. I have done some research into the field and have began courses on python to begin with however I wanted to discuss a few other aspects of the career:

Are Bioinformaticians in hot demand, especially within the UK? I have heard many opinions on the matter but I felt opinion on this forum would be one of the best to get

With a background in Biology with limited knowledge of coding/software in general, what are my best options to improve my knowledge here? also would I be better doing a masters programme in Bioinformatics if I get the option to? (i would assume yes but unsure how vital this would be)

Is there anything else you can tell me about the job- what are your day-to-day roles? Are there any personal characteristics ideal/vital to do well in this job? is there anything in particular I can do at this stage to improve my chances in this field?

Sorry if this is the wrong forum for this type of post, if so a kindly push to the right place would be appreciated!

Thanks again


ADD COMMENTlink modified 4.0 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 82k • written 4.0 years ago by Sarahlwilliamson20
gravatar for Istvan Albert
4.0 years ago by
Istvan Albert ♦♦ 82k
University Park, USA
Istvan Albert ♦♦ 82k wrote:

There are many paths to becoming a bioinformatician. Today most of these paths require Unix competency, some programming and coding skills.

But that can hide what bioinformatics is actually about, and that is the skills necessary to interpret genomic data. Understanding the methods, choosing the right algorithms, selecting the correct parameters, evaluating the results etc. Bioinformatics is about eternal problem solving and is substantially different from say a biology as a science. In biology most concepts need to be learned as they are presented.

We don't know what the future holds, and clearly there will always be unix type bioinformatics jobs. But big growth will come from applications of bioinformatics to many of the fields that currently are in an exploratory phase: food safety, clinical screening etc. In those domains skills like biology, genetics, data interpretation or even social skills become just as important.

There are quite a few resources to get you started. Unlike many other fields of science where the knowledge has been accumulating over centuries bioinformatics is only some decades old. It is easy to catch up.

ADD COMMENTlink modified 4.0 years ago • written 4.0 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 82k

Thank you for your reply! I am however afraid that my own problem solving skills will be sub par to the level required to work through some of these problems, is there strong support in a field like this? there does seem to be, for instance, from my searches around this forum.

ADD REPLYlink written 4.0 years ago by Sarahlwilliamson20

Let me just chime in to say "YOU CAN DO IT" and don't discount your problem solving skills! These things can be built upon and sharpened with practice and effort. And I have found a lot of support from fellow bioinformaticians on this site and in person. I would say I think there is a pretty decent job market and a masters is not vital depending on if you can get job experience some other way, but it wouldn't be a bad way to go. Day-to-day I'm meeting with people, processing data with a lot of command line tools, visualizing and analyzing data mostly with R, making figures, reading papers and manuals, trying different things, troubleshooting. There's always a new type of data or new way to analyze it, so it's a job where you're always learning, which I find fun.

ADD REPLYlink written 4.0 years ago by Madelaine Gogol5.1k

Thank you for your reply! is there anything you could recommend to me at my current level of education in both biology and computer science to better equip me in this field? also could I ask how you yourself entered into the field? at my university it isn't a career path that has been made known to us and I found out about it through other means

ADD REPLYlink written 4.0 years ago by Sarahlwilliamson20

I would try to get your hands on some data and attempt to do something with it in R, answer a question that you have. This may force you to improve your R knowledge. Getting the data into shape, depending on the type of data and where you get it from -- might make you want to learn a bit more command line linux or python/perl.

I was always into Biology, my dad was a microbiologist, I worked in his lab a little bit in the summers. But I liked computers, computer games, the early incarnation and ideas of the internet, and took a computer programming class in high school and really liked it. Then I wasn't sure what to major in during college, but went with Computer Science. During college, I literally saw a job posting on a bulletin board for a student hourly job in the Bioinformatics Program and it was all over from there. Got the job, realized the field existed, been in it ever since. A little too much dumb luck involved, but oh well. : )

ADD REPLYlink written 4.0 years ago by Madelaine Gogol5.1k

Sorry for the long reply Madelaine and this may be a silly question, but I'm not competent in R in the slightest yet and the idea of taking raw data, asking a question and hunting for an answer still seems like a mammoth task for me! I wouldn't even know how to 'get the data into shape'. Would this type of task require a basic or advanced knowledge in R? Is there anything you would recommend a complete novice do first in order to get to this stage? i've just finished my exams and am currently researching as much as i can on courses, textbooks, journals, podcasts etc. that i can now start to delve into, and i also have, in august, an opportunity to shadow and work with a bioinformatics group set up at my university however want to have some background before going there.

ADD REPLYlink written 3.8 years ago by Sarahlwilliamson20

An online course might be a good way to get started:

I have an intro to R course for biologists that is kinda old, but could be a super entry level thing to take a look at.

ADD REPLYlink modified 17 months ago by RamRS25k • written 3.8 years ago by Madelaine Gogol5.1k
gravatar for auryndb
4.0 years ago by
auryndb60 wrote:

Take a look at this

ADD COMMENTlink modified 17 months ago by RamRS25k • written 4.0 years ago by auryndb60
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