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What Programming Skills Are Needed for Bioinformatics?

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 7/15/2008

This article discusses the relationship of information technology with biological research, when combined creating bioinformatics. Some skills it is necessary to have is knowledge of biology as well as basic computer-programming knowledge.

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    Bioinformatics combines Biotechnology and Information Technology. Bioinformatics mainly involves computerizing biodata, whether it be from biotechnology or any other biological science. It deals with many different subjects such as chemistry, mathematics, statistics, or computers and different kinds of programming languages like C, C++, Java and Oracle.

    Now, to be a good programmer in bioinformatics, a person should be good at programming skills. Many computer languages help creating effective software that help solve many biological problems computationally.

    Now, looking towards the programming skills, the languages that come into mind with bioinformatics programmer are C, C++, Java, Oracle, Visual Basic, Perl and Python. These are the main programming languages which can be used effectively to develop software as an effective tool for a particular biological problem.

    C and C++ are the basic programming languages and they should be studied before doing other programming languages. But C and C++ are not actually preferred because they are not good in presenting a graphical view. The main use of Java is that it can produce graphical applets as well as for usage on internet. So, this is also a very good programming language for developing tools and software. Visual basic is mainly used for only developing software. It is easy to code for visual basic in VBScript.

    Much bioinformatic work is accomplished with Perl and Python. Perl is a very good bioinformatics tool as it tackles strings very well, and it's good at pattern matching. This programming language also helps making online projects as it easily embeds with ASP and JSP, which are used to build active web pages. Python is a general purpose and high level programming language. It supports multi programming paradigms. As a scripting language, Python has been successfully embedded in a number of software products.

    If you have a background in science, or specialty biology science, it would greatly help. Even if you do not have it, but have a high skill in programming, it would be easy for you to learn the biological terms by looking at online websites such Wikipedia.