Forum:M.S. Bioinformatics and Computational Biology: Will I be able to find a job after graduation? I'm worried...
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7 months ago
CMPanda ▴ 20

Hi All,

I really needed some career advice. I am currently a Masters student in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, at the moment I don't have any intention of pursuing a Ph.D. mostly because of the financial burden unless it is fully funded. I have a B.S. in Physics that was more concentrated on Biophysics specifically which is where my love for studying bioloigcal mechanisms of cancer and cancer genomics started. I decided to pursue bioinformatics thinking that could jumpstart my career in cancer research, however after more research I'm starting to feel like that could not be a reality in the near future. All the entry level positions I see require either a Ph.D. or many years of experience, how do I get experience to get started in my career? I think it would be amazing to workin personalized medical treatments for cancer patients or studying the genomic trends in cancer across populations however, where do I even start? I'm the type of person who like to utlitize every moment of effort towards a goal, during my masters I would like to be doing something to undergird my chances of starting my career right after graduation. I feel like I have so much to offer a company or lab in terms of knowledge and creativity but I have no clue where to start. Any advice? Suggestions? I'm open to any suggestions. I've tried joining a bioinformatics lab at my university however they are not taking new students because of the pandemic (perhaps that will lift soon).

Also, my friends in the same program have the same concerns except their concentrations are more data science focused. I chose the bio track within the degree to add more courses relating to cancer biology.

I'm happy to answer any additional questions about myself, hopefully if someone else is in the same boat this could help them as well :)

career Masters Graduation • 890 views
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7 months ago
Mensur Dlakic ★ 20k

I don't know if you are into role-playing, but let's give it a try. Let's say that I am your prospective employer. How would you convince me to hire you?

I feel like I have so much to offer a company or lab in terms of knowledge and creativity but I have no clue where to start.

I have to tell you that this will not do it. The best way to convince me to hire you would be by accomplishments. Maybe you know everything about internal combustion engines, and you are pretty sure that you can rebuild the carburetor in my Audi (which I wish I had). Still, I am not giving you my car to fix until I see a record of accomplishment. This is to say that for people who have money and can be picky, you will have to accomplish something before they give you a chance. I suggest you knock on the door of every lab that even remotely does bioinformatics and try to get some real-life experience. Trying only one lab won't necessarily cut it, despite a suggestion from several weeks ago that biology labs are lining up to take MS bionformatics students.

If you lack tangible accomplishments, an alternative route would be to volunteer for a while, or work for less money. While people with lots of money can be picky, those with little or no money may be willing to take you in and spend some time to train you. Either way, you need to write many e-mails/letters and knock on many doors.

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Thank you for your repsonse!

I am a very quick learner who can learn and replicate skills and knowledge very quickly and accurately especially in programming and biochemistry, if you were my potential employer then I would show you my transcript and some of the projects I've done for my classes and that they were a success. I think another way to convince an employer you're worth your weight is proving you can do the work through a company designed exam, although that could just show potential (promise) and not concrete proof.

Right, there are only a few laboratories on campus that specialize in bioinformatics and computational biology, I've contacted all and all rejected me because of the pandemic; given most of the work I would complete for them would be computer science oriented I don't see why they can just give me a remote project for fun. There are biology research labs on campus however they don't need a bioinformatician or computational biologists. The lab I was part of for my undergraduate biophysics studies doesn't need a bioinformatician either. I think I might need to find more doors to knock on.

Recently, I've begun to build a portfolio of projects (primarily R and Python) that I've had for classes and plan to expand it this summer with independent projects like taking data from cancer databases and github just to show off the fact that I can do the work. However, I don't know if this is a waste of time considering I'm not doing it for a class or a company. Could doing independent projects also be considered an accomplishment (proving myself) or would it just be seen as fluff (fixing an imaginary friends car for free)?

Unfortunately, I do lack tangible accomplishments. I am more than willing to "start from the bottom" I just want to know where the bottom is, by companies with less money do you mean startups? like biotech companies? or local labs? I've gotten offers for research from a local academic research hospital but it is funded by a grant so the full time salary is only 35k and its barely relating to what I actually want to do.

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I am a very quick learner who can learn and replicate skills and knowledge very quickly and accurately

Not doubting this is true - after all, I don't know anything about you - but most people who want the job will say the same thing. This is a sort of bookish knowledge I referred to before in my car analogy. Sure, I want someone fixing my car who has a general understanding of what all engine pieces do and how they work together, but I'd still rather have someone who has actually rebuilt the carburetor before.

I am not a bioinformatician, either by education or by vocation. That's why you may get a better answer about creating GitHub project from local experts who are actually in that boat. I feel that creating a new tool, or a new way of using the existing tool, is worth doing and creating a project around it. Sometimes it may even be worth to simply repeat what others have done if you have a fancier or more understandable way of displaying things.

The rest of your questions are difficult to answer without knowing more about you, and this is not an invitation for you to share more. But in general, I would give different advice to a single person vs. one who is with family. I do not propose that you start from the bottom without exploring other options, but in the end it may be a way to go. If you can live on that salary for 6-12 months, at least you will have a tangible accomplishment from that employment to add to your resume, and presumably a good recommendation or two.

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independent GitHub projects are fantastic to have. They do not need to all be Bioinformatics either, general programming projects in relevant languages (such as Python and R) are also good to show. If you really want to show off, combine it with some workflow frameworks such as Nextflow, CWL, or Snakemake.

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7 months ago
steve ★ 3.2k

as an MS holder who works in Bioinformatics with other MS, BS, and PhD holders, I can assure you there are jobs out there you will be eligible for with a MS in Bioinformatics.

Make sure you are not looking at "scientist" positions, those tend to all require PhD. You are going to want to look at positions labeled as "analyst", "programmer", "engineer", etc..

If you have not already, try looking on LinkedIn's Job search under "bioinformatics", I took a quick glance just now and saw several that specify MS or BS as the minimum qualifications, some listings do not even have degree requirements listed and instead just ask for relevant years of experience.

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7 months ago
Zhenyu Zhang ▴ 580

I am in a academic bioinfo group doing "big bioinformatics projects" (not a bioinfo facility). I typically hire two types of bioinformatians

  1. Research type Ph.D that focus on diverse high-level analysis, but could be week at coding.
  2. Coding type MS that helps the team to improve process, building tools and systems, etc.
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