What's the recommended graduate educational path for a fullstack developer to transition into bioinformatics?
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5.4 years ago
dublinski ▴ 20

Hello,

I am deeply interested in pursuing a career in bioinformatics software development, but do not have any formal training in bioinformatics, at least in terms of either on-the-job training or a graduate degree. My ideal position, assuming something like this exists, would be to develop software tools to aid life sciences researchers in better leveraging patient genomic data to help deliver personalized genomic medicine.

I currently work as a fullstack developer at a major corporation, where I have significant experience with Python, Java, and Javascript.

Would it be worthwhile to obtain an MS in bioinformatics, from programs like these:

http://engineering.nyu.edu/academics/programs/bioinformatics-ms

http://advanced.jhu.edu/academics/graduate-degree-programs/bioinformatics/

Or can you only really make inroads into a career in bioinformatics software development with a PhD in bioinformatics?

bioinformatics software career graduate school • 2.7k views
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Check out the bioinformatics subreddit. They have a lot of carreer-related discussions and you might get some useful advice there as well. Good luck!

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5.4 years ago
Mitch Bekritsky ★ 1.3k

I work at a biotech company

It really depends on what you want to do. If your focus will be primarily software engineering, then you might not need an MS or a Ph.D. As a full stack developer with some reasonably popular bioinformatics languages, you should be able to find something with the skills you already have.

If on the other hand, you are looking to do algorithm or statistical methods development, it's probably worth at least getting an MS. The skills you will pick up from these programs will help get you started on learning the methods and concepts that will be important in a future job.

Independent of the skills you already have or might need to acquire, an MS or Ph.D. program can help you figure out what kind of bioinformatician you want to be. There are all different types, so if you haven't had much exposure, it might be worthwhile just to give yourself some direction.

RE the programs you mentioned, the people running the NYU program are really smart and excellent people--I've gotten to know a few of them, and they have lots of experience in the field. The Johns Hopkins program looks reasonable as well, but I'm less familiar with the faculty there.

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Thanks for the feedback Mitch, much appreciated.

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5.4 years ago

I don't know about the industrial side. On the academic side, speaking as a former industry programmer and DBA who's now a bioinformatics postdoc, what you'll need is more training in both biology and statistics than you've probably had so far. You already know how to program, and hopefully how to write efficient, well-organized, and well-documented programs that lend themselves to maintenance and reproducibility of results (this is a huge problem in scientific software generally). But an awful lot of bioinformatics problems look deceptively simple from a programming point of view, but take deep biological domain knowledge to understand, and rigorous statistical analysis to ensure the results are meaningful. You'd get that in any decent bioinformatics Ph.D. program for sure; the MS programs may or may not provide it. FWIW, my advice would be to e-mail the the director of graduate studies (or equivalent position) for each program you're interested in and discuss what coursework they offer for students with your background.

Career-wise, again speaking only from the academic POV, there are MS-level jobs in some large labs or core facilities. In small labs like mine, it's all Ph.D. But I know people with MSs in the relevant fields (CS, biostat, and mol bio; I don't think any of them specifically have a bioinformatics MS, but that's probably because such programs are relatively new) who seem quite happy with their jobs in the larger groups.

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Thanks Daniel, I will definitely need to do a closer look at the NYU MS program and see what outcomes they have career-wise for students who've gone through the program.

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