Hi there, I am a current final year student with a very strong interest in computational biology/bioinformatics, and I am seriously thinking about pursuing an academic career in this field. I am currently double-majoring in Math/Stats and I need to decide between Biochemistry/Molecular Biology and Computational Biology as my second major. My inclination has always been quantitative and thus my research interests have included a significant computational or quantitative component (read: systems biology, synthetic biology, bioinformatics). I also have solid wet-lab skills, but I feel my strengths lie elsewhere.
Whilst I am partly convinced to major in computational biology (plays more to my strengths), I have done some reading/research on the web and amongst academics I know and would like to hear opinions on the following:
I feel it is common for wet-lab people to switch to dry-lab research interests, but not quite the other way around. Is this true? In that regard, perhaps I would be leaving more opportunities open by taking a more 'conventional' biochemistry major - are there any potential pitfalls here, or things I should think about?
Is it more difficult to progress in an academic career as a computational researcher, as opposed to wet-lab? I would not want to be stuck in a 'data-cruncher' position for too long. Is it common for bioinformatics-background people to go on to become lab-heads/PIs and conduct their own research?
Given the nature of academia, I would like to have a good backup industry plan if this whole academic career thing doesn't work out. Software engineer/data scientist/quantitative analyst sounds good, but I wonder what industry attitudes would be to, for example, a candidate with a BSc(Maths/Biochem), MSc(Bioinformatics) and a computational PhD? Is it common for bioinformaticians to get computational jobs (non-bioinfo) in industry? In academic circles, computer science and computational biology are regarded as very different fields. What about industry?
I have a possibility to triple major in Computer Science additionally by taking another year. I imagine this would improve my chances for industry jobs, but it seems a little excessive. Would there be any benefits to an academic career by having this background? (aside from additional coursework knowledge)
My current inclination is to stick to a combination of Stats and conventional Biochem. I have strong computational skills (C/C++, Python, R, UNIX, etc) which I've used in research projects already. I feel the statistics background should be enough to justify computational interests in future (or to convince academics), whilst biochem should leave wet-lab doors open if I so desire.
Would be very interested to hear thoughts from the bioinformatics community :)