Forum: Can A Bioinformatician Go Back To Biology In A Phd
gravatar for wariobrega
6.7 years ago by
wariobrega60 wrote:

Hello everyone,

I am a 25 years old student in an MsC master in Bioinformatics in Italy. My background, (unlike most of the people that writes here I guess) is in molecular biology, which I did during my Bachelor.

I was very excited when I studied bioinformatics at start for the huge amount of applications that it can have in biology in general, from genomics to structural biology through biochemistry, but during these two years I lost most of this passion finding myself more to like biology than computer science.

In fact, there isn't a field in bioinformatics that I would like to adress after this experience, and I find myself likely more inclined through lab work than sitting in front of a computer all day.

I still would like to remain in the academic field rather than industry, but I am not sure f someone will ever search for a Bioinformatics to do a PhD project more focused on biological work rather than coding or using too to analyze datas. Even more, I would like maybe to find something as a PhD focused on virology, astrobiology or molecular biology.

So my question is: is it possible to find something suitable more for the biological field than for the informatics field in the future? Do you have any experience or any suggestion?

Thanks for reading,


forum phd • 2.7k views
ADD COMMENTlink modified 5.8 years ago by Eric Normandeau10k • written 6.7 years ago by wariobrega60
gravatar for Leonor Palmeira
6.7 years ago by
Leonor Palmeira3.7k
Li├Ęge, Belgium
Leonor Palmeira3.7k wrote:

I find your question very interesting and would answer it by subdividing this into the following. I'm not sure how this will speak to you and your specific situation, but it might help others having similar issues. Also, I believe some interesting discussions might take place on this other question.

What are labs looking for when they look for a bioinformatician?

I find that most biology labs have a need for people that understand the biology and have the ability to solve data analysis problems (it is a rather difficult mix to achieve). It has become a strong element in the job offers I see, specially with NGS projects popping up everywhere. This means that, if you do not want to develop computational biology tools but want to be involved in the projects of a wet biology lab, there is definitely good prospects for you as a bioinformatics engineer there.

What to do after losing interested in your field?

Are you certain this lost of interest is so global that no bioinformatics field still apeals to you? If there are some bioinformatics paper that you still find interesting, maybe you should have a look at what the authors are working on now? Reading the work of others helps you define what the open questions are, what people are working on, and what questions you could try to solve.

How can you work on a new topic?

I think you should always keep an open state of mind on your ability to switch projects. Nobody is born self taught, and you can always learn new skills. However, this might take more time than you can afford. If you are planning on switching topic, does this only require bibliographical research? Or does it require a PhD in the new field? Or even more... (if you want to switch, say, to 'statistical physics')? To have an idea of how long your journey might be, read a couple of articles that really interest you, and have a look at the Material and Methods. Does it sound completely obscure or do you understand them? Would you be able to reproduce them? These are the kind of questions that might help you focus on the solutions to your situation.

ADD COMMENTlink written 6.7 years ago by Leonor Palmeira3.7k
gravatar for Istvan Albert
6.7 years ago by
Istvan Albert ♦♦ 80k
University Park, USA
Istvan Albert ♦♦ 80k wrote:

I would say that a wetlab biologists that is knowledgeable about bioinformatics is a great addition to any lab.

Knowing what to ask/expect from a bioinformatician collaborator, being able to understand the strengths and limitations of the various techniques, understanding the terminologies and lingo etc are extremely valuable skills. Most life sciences are strongly interdisciplinary - communication and understanding each other is the most important aspect.

So I would not worry too much about switching fields. What you already know about bioinformatics will make you a much better and well rounded candidate. The most important thing in anyone's career is to pursue challenges that they genuinely enjoy solving.

ADD COMMENTlink written 6.7 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 80k
gravatar for Damian Kao
6.7 years ago by
Damian Kao15k
Damian Kao15k wrote:

I think the question you should answer is if you really do want to do lab work. How much lab work have you done? It's very easy to get enamoured with lab work in the beginning without realizing how difficult, time consuming, and frustrating it can be. I did wet lab for 2-3 years as a tech before I started my phd. I did the gamut of cell work, transgenic work, vector manipulation, real time pcrs..etc. It was exciting at first for me, but after a while, it just got tedious. I found analyzing the results to be the most fun part. One of the reasons I got into bioinformatics is because I get to mainly analyze data.

Everyone is different though. But I would try to get an understanding on the realities of wet lab work before you commit to anything.

ADD COMMENTlink modified 6.7 years ago • written 6.7 years ago by Damian Kao15k
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