Forum: Thinking of going into Bioinformatics
gravatar for Eeyore88
2.9 years ago by
Eeyore8840 wrote:

Hello, I am thinking of going into a career in Bioinformatics or into Forensic Computer work. This is been a bit of a shock as I currently work in a lab (micro) but recently I have had a rotor cuff shoulder injury and I have to potentially rethink my career in science.

I have a 2:1 in Biology (2012) and have undertaken placements in Molecular Biology and Genetics labs and some training in microscopy. I have completed training in immunology (ELISAs and Western Blotts) and furthered my Genetics and Biology training just earlier this year as I wanted to go into Genetics based work and this is my graduate entry job. This injury has really hit me hard and I have completed some bioinformatics work on my 3rd year project using phylogenetic tree software (which I learnt on my own) and have used APEx (during the training this year) and have used NCBI and BLAST but I haven't learnt other software (C++; Python; Java; Perl).

Please don't think I'm been daft or stupid this is potentially a serious injury as I have been off work for the last month and doing physiotherapy and I want to still use my Biology degree because its what I loved and this is potentially what has been given to me and is not what I planned for. Is Bioinformatics likely to be a good career option if I do a good MSc or MRes? I'm trying to rethink my potential career options and I would really appreciate the advice and help and if I do is it likely to be a good career in the future? I am willing to learn all coding and work but need the help. Thank you (sorry for the long post need the help).

What online training could I do as I need to do training and want to work and get experience?

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ADD COMMENTlink modified 2.9 years ago • written 2.9 years ago by Eeyore8840

Perhaps some additional options if you want to stay in (biological) science: science journalism, scientific editor at a journal, science communication,...

ADD REPLYlink written 2.9 years ago by WouterDeCoster40k

The good thing about programming is that there are countless online resources. I think you should start getting into one programming language (Python would be a good start) a bit and see if you like it - because if not, you might not want to do bioinformatics. Also some linux/unix skills are usually necessary. So if you want to get into it, I think start with these too topics, linux and python. And after spending some serious time with it I guess you can better judge if this is something for you. Just google, as I said, there are countless tutorials and there is no need at the beginning to include 'bioinformatics' in your search, first you have to learn the basics.

However, as Wouter said, there are A LOT of opportunities with your background that do not involve lab work. So it does not have to be bioinformatics! Keep that in mind and don't get discouraged!

ADD REPLYlink written 2.9 years ago by LLTommy1.2k
gravatar for John
2.9 years ago by
John12k wrote:

Gosh, this is a really upsetting story :(

Unfortunately there are so many factors involved here that I don't know how to proceed with advice that will be good and not just sound good. We would need a little bit more information from you about the nature of your previous lab work before we can say if this is even a bioinformatics question, any more than it is a sales-rep question or an accounting question. Clearly you need to retrain as something else - but whether Bioinformatics is a good choice really depends on how much benefit your biological training will help in your new role as a bioinformatician.

My suspicion is not a whole lot. If you were designing experiments from hypothesis to results, that would be one thing, but i suspect you worked for a lab as a technician and your main job was pipetting and using machines. While this is technically challenging work, it is not a skill that helps much in bioinformatics (or in fact anywhere outside of that specific lab environment you were previously in). This is, in my opinion, the big con of the UK biological sciences "career path". They don't train you in anything other than what they need for, this year, and as soon as a new technology comes out you have LESS value to your department than a 22yo post-grad fresh out of uni and enthusiastic about doing some "science". I once had to console a 35yo indian man I found crying in his office at the lab once (in London), because the machine he so lovingly took care of for the diagnostic department for 10 years (a dHPLC) was being replaced with a sequencing machine, and he had no other skills (in management, etc). I suggested he retrain as the sequencing machine technician, and he said it was impossible. He was pay-grade X, and the uni had brought in some young person willing to accept pay-grade X-10, and he had a family to feed.

If i'm totally wrong and your previous job did have you reading journal papers frequently, etc, then disregard everything i've said. If however you've found you've gotten the short straw in a game of chance and your employer isn't willing to pay for your loyalty and dedication these past 4 years with an internal move to another department, i'd consider yourself lucky to have figured out the true nature of the game so soon and retrain as something you love. In the interim, disability benefit is designed for people such as yourself, so use it!

ADD COMMENTlink written 2.9 years ago by John12k
gravatar for Eeyore88
2.9 years ago by
Eeyore8840 wrote:

Hiya my bioinformatics work is very little I did a meta-analysis dissertation using BLAST and NCBI to align a gene against the same gene but in different species and used Excel to view the different mutations (non-sense/silent/missense) against all the other species. I did some of this during my degree and I did enjoy this and self-taught myself MEGA to create phylogenetic trees to show the genetic difference between the species which I enjoyed because it made me work through the different ways of this.

I did a short placement in a Molecular Biology and Genetics lab (it was short due to another injury during a ecology field work so my 2nd year was pushed back). I completed since graduating as it took me a while to get this job some additional lab training using ELISAs and Western Blotting in one which I enjoyed. So I love the immunology/genetics and bioinformatics work. I also completed earlier this year more molecular biology and protein work. I have been working in this micro lab (food) lab for around 18months as a lab tech and I wanted to apply for a training programme which incorporates a paid MSc. I cant do a MSc or MRes myself because in short I cant afford it even with a loan but I don't want to take out another loan. In short I have done more training then been able to branch into another lab as I have been 'runner up' in interviews which has annoyed me.

I know its not a lot of experience but I loved the placement I did during my degree. I have been told its not a bad tear in the muscle but I am looking at going into bioinformatics as I worry if it goes again it wont be 3 months it might be 18months/2years cause if it goes again I'm worried it'll be much worse. Due to this worry I have started looking at online courses and talking to others in the profession who have said its good to get into.

I have been on paid sick leave during this but I need to be realistic now with this type of injury, I am hoping to re-train as my company has been purchased by a bigger company but I need to be realistic. I love genetics and wanted to get into this field when I graduated but I'm been very 'glass half empty' about this.

I hope this amount of information helps. I am been very realistic I have a degree I am willing to retrain/learn new softwares and move out of the 'typical/traditional' lab work. I just need some realistic assistance/help during this time.

ADD COMMENTlink written 2.9 years ago by Eeyore8840

Right, ok, we need to back up for a second - and this is a common misconception but - bioinformatics isn't a skill like Western Blot or ELISA. Using BLAST or MEGA is not bioinformatics. Bioinformatics is knowing when to use BLAST and MEGA. Anyone can learn how to use any program in an afternoon. They have to because new programs are coming out all. the. time. much more frequently than new wetlab protocols do anyway.

Bioinformatics is knowing which program, pipeline, or components of a pipeline, should be used given some biological data and question. Knowing which program to use might take months to figure out, not to mention years of experience. This is because bioinformatics is a field of science that is significantly more theoretical than biology. Even the most practical aspects of bioinformatics such as running data through an existing pipeline requires a deeper knowledge of theory than a wetlab biology protocol like taking blood and sequencing it. I remember when I worked in the wetlab, we'd always have the radio on in the background. I'm not sure i've ever heard talk-show radio in a computer lab ever. It's much too distracting given the highly-theoretical nature of the job. Yes there are some practical jobs in bioinformatics, but those jobs are slowly but surely disappearing as computer programs get better and better and doing stuff for us. If I was to recommend someone who likes the practical aspects of biology to do bioinformatics in 2016, I would be doing them a great disservice, even if it's what they wanted to hear.

So put it this way - you've busted your shoulder, a shoulder that you needed to put into action your practical skills. Skill that pay the bills. Your reaction to this has been to think of new practical skills you could learn that don't require a shoulder, such as doing stuff on a computer. Unfortunately, despite knowing some or even a lot of biology, unless you can think about problems in biology in an abstract way you won't enjoy bioinformatics. So in my opinion, you should think about changing career paths entirely to something that is practical and worthy of your time, or, develop your abstract reasoning abilities to the level required for bioinformatics.

For the former, I think accounting or law might be a good idea for you. There's a LOT of computer work, and it is an environment heavy on the practical and light on the theoretical (oh and you can pay off those frankly inhumane educational debts). Failing that management might be a good idea. It could even be management of a biological sciences environment.

If you wish to develop your abstract reasoning and be the kind of person that thinks up new directions to take research, that is a totally different path, and one where Bioinformatics would suit. However, neither your first nor second post contained anything that led me to believe this is the sort of thing you would find interesting. You talk a lot about your skills and the specifics of this injury. You sound like a practical guy or girl. So if you wish to pursue bioinformatics, no one is going to stop you. But in the end your shoulder pain might end up being a royal pain in the elbow.

ADD REPLYlink written 2.9 years ago by John12k

Please use ADD COMMENT to reply to earlier answers, as such this thread remains logically structured and easy to follow.

ADD REPLYlink written 2.9 years ago by WouterDeCoster40k

News update: I have returned to work on phased return with light duties using my left arm only on machinery. The company I work for has been taken over by another company so I am going to wait until the new year to see if anything happens with my work (i believe this to be unlikely) but will be looking if I can do any transfers to other areas. I have regular physio and a scan on the shoulder.

For the other job areas, law was an area I'm looking into but I'm not sure if I can as I have looked at graduate scheme and most say for a PhD which I don't have but booked for a open day next year and hoping to talk to someone or go and see a company. Accounting isn't a area I am looking into its not a area for myself I am looking into writing/ jornalism side.

I have started looking at online training for bioinformatics software. I am looking to apply for a graduate lab training nhs next year in genetics and bioinformatics or micro and looking into other areas including radiotherapy and going to a open evening at a uni and going to see if I can do something in computers or data analysis or something else. I am going to look at mres programmes for next year at Nottingham in something such as bioinformatics and cell biology.

I am feeling better now I've returned to work and looking to see if there's anything new coming but this has been a wake up for me so thinking of doing some new training to get me into something new.

Thank you to all for informing me of the different areas I can go into.

ADD REPLYlink written 2.9 years ago by Eeyore8840

Good luck with your career developments then and always welcome here on biostars!

ADD REPLYlink written 2.9 years ago by WouterDeCoster40k

Just had my results its not torn muscle but its another type of injury which is going to be a type of injury which is going to restrict my working in a lab with heavy lifting and it'll come back once healed due to where it is and the type I also have spoke to a doctor who recommended to look at something else so I've started looking at where to start so I'm looking at doing R and doing the mentored projects work; Python with Rosalind and Stargeo and the Crowdsourcing from looking on here for recommendations from others from threads here, but can anyone recommend anything else which can help me for getting into the area of bioinformatics?

ADD REPLYlink written 2.8 years ago by Eeyore8840

The main method is to fail often and fail hard and get better gradually. No magic involved :-)

ADD REPLYlink written 2.8 years ago by WouterDeCoster40k
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