17 months ago by
Republic of Ireland
This is a good debate/question, Michael. Do you feel that not enough people are taking on bioinformatics?
I actually began as a computer scientist / software engineer in Dublin, Ireland, and I certainly don't regret having studied that first. I still see myself as a computer scientist. I then branched into biology and completed a degree in that, followed by PhD. It was only in my postdoctoral career that I really began to merge both biology and computer science together.
As I look at my colleagues from my computer science course, they each have top jobs and I don't think that any of them did further postgraduate study. As a computer science graduate, I think that top job opportunities come quicker, fortunately for them. As I look at my colleagues from biology, some had to do further training whilst others don't even work in biology anymore.
What I would like is greater integration between computer science, biology, and bioinformatics at the undergrad level, so that those passing through a computer science or biology degree can get a good idea of bioinformatics (and if they'd be interested in it). The only thing that was mentioned in relation to bioinformatics in my computer science course was BLAST, Clustal, etc, as you'd imagine. There was minimal mention, possibly just a few lines on a book page somewhere, in my biology course.
Obviously I'm even left to ponder my own career path, and have contemplated trying to revert back to being a trainee computer scientist. When you get to a certain age, though, no-one listens anymore. One of the main benefits of being a PhD level bioinformatician in research, though, is that the work is interesting and opportunities to move abroad are common. A major worrying aspect of research right now though, is that there are too many highly skilled postdocs, and too few faculty-level posts. Thus, we need to also train the next batch of bioinformaticians to be ready to jump straight into industry when they graduate. This will involve greater cross-talk with industry and academic circles, as already happens for computer science graduates through work-placements and other company-sponsored events.