Forum: Is Bioinformatics enough? Is it taken seriously?
gravatar for neelk1123
7 weeks ago by
neelk11230 wrote:

I'm a mid-level software developer (B.S. in Computer Science) who is looking to make an impact on challenges with climate change. Specifically, I want to get into crop improvement to help feed and nourish the growing population.

I've started reading Genomes 3rd ed. by Brown and doing problems on to gauge my interest, and after 3 months I am still fascinated by microbiology/genomes. I would like to pursue a masters in bioinformatics (I'm not eager to commit to a 5+ year PhD program), but then my manager shared her disillusionment with bioinformatics 10 years ago.

She was discouraged by the fact that her research was never published or used. She said that it was hard to get your research published or "taken seriously" unless you had connections with folks on the in vitro/vivo side of the house. For you linux people reading this, she said that she grew tired of her work writing to /dev/null haha. Is that the case in this field, or was her experience just an anomaly?

Appreciate the guidance.

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ADD COMMENTlink modified 7 weeks ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 86k • written 7 weeks ago by neelk11230

The fact that you are posting to this forum, which is used by thousands across the world, is a testament that bioinformatics (informatics in general) is an important scientific field and is taken seriously by many. It on its own is perhaps not going to solve world's problems but it certainly does facilitate finding solutions for some of them ("perl saved the human genome project" LINK).

If bioinformatics (or for that matter any subject) gives you personal satisfaction then it is 100% worth pursuing. If you care more about public recognition then there is a significant chance that you may end up getting disappointed. Only time can tell.

ADD REPLYlink written 7 weeks ago by GenoMax94k

There are many aspects to your question, I will just gloss over a few.

  1. climate change and world hunger are much more of a political problem than a technical problem, so if you want to enter the field to progress these areas, I see a lot of room for personal disappointment. I am not saying technical advances won't help these issues, but they may have a lot less effect than one would hope.

  2. if your manager is a "pure" CS person, maybe her research was a bit detached from interesting biological questions or concepts, thus it wasn't "taken seriously". Having connections with wet-lab biologists will steer you to questions biologists find interesting.

  3. publishing can be hard and gruesome (specially at "career defining" journals) but, if your research is correct, it only depends on persistence, as there are journals with far less extraordinary claims of originality.

ADD REPLYlink written 7 weeks ago by h.mon32k

She said that it was hard to get your research published or "taken seriously" unless you had connections with folks on the in vitro/vivo side of the house

Another possible way of interpreting that statement is her work was not biologically relevant. For certain journals, that is important. There are also plenty of more computational journals.

ADD REPLYlink written 7 weeks ago by igor12k

She said that it was hard to get your research published or "taken seriously" unless you had connections with folks on the in vitro/vivo side of the house.

As long as my experience goes, this is a relatively true statement for every single field of research. If your results are not something that cannot be negligible, then it can be hard to get your research published.

For bioinformatics part, I could say that this is a field which develops at a very fast pace. There are not enough people studying bioinformatics. People are merely using tools not improving or creating stuff.

After B.S. in molecular biology, I jumped into bioinformatics without knowing much about it. Even though I'm about to complete my MSc on bioinformatics and I have worked for 2 years, I'm still having troubles following the developments and I'm saying this one on only metagenomics, and there are many different fields in bioinformatics.

If you are fascinated with the problems on, I suggest you to pursue, at least, a MSc degree. I think a MSc in bioinformatics should be able to solve them and have fun doing that.

ADD REPLYlink written 7 weeks ago by the_dummy10
gravatar for Istvan Albert
7 weeks ago by
Istvan Albert ♦♦ 86k
University Park, USA
Istvan Albert ♦♦ 86k wrote:

For me the best "definition" of modern science written for lay person comes from a book review here:

  • How does science really work?

It is a somewhat lengthy review of the book "The Knowledge Machine: How Irrationality Created Modern Science” by Michael Strevens, a philosopher at New York University. What Stevens argues and I believe has also become the dominant goal of biology (and with that bioinformatics) is the so called "iron rule" for scientists:

“if they are to participate in the scientific enterprise, they must uncover or generate new evidence to argue with”; from there, they must “conduct all disputes with reference to empirical evidence alone.”

and that:

“channels hope, anger, envy, ambition, resentment—all the fires fuming in the human heart—to one end: the production of empirical evidence.”

This is a radical departure from what laypeople think about science: that a scientist simply thinks up, comes up with, or codes up amazing new stuff. No, instead it is about generating evidence and that process can be quite laborious. This is why the advisor did not get to publish her stuff, it was not clear how her code would generate more evidence.

Make sure you understand what this means if you want to become a scientists. The article has quite a few examples of how science is mostly about toiling in the shadows rather than making amazing discoveries.

ADD COMMENTlink written 7 weeks ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 86k
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