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A Career in Bioinformatics

written by: Emma Lloyd • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 3/12/2009

What’s involved in a career in bioinformatics? Learn more about bioinformatics careers here.

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    Bioinformatics is a multidisciplinary science that incorporates aspects of computer science, chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, and statistics. In bioinformatics careers, the focus is on examining biological systems at the molecular level. The Human Genome Project is an example of a very large-scale bioinformatics project, involving scientists from around the world who cooperated to develop a map of the entire human genome.

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    Biostatistics

    Biostatisticians are trained to use their skill in statistics to solve biological problems. Biostatisticians are often employed in fields such as epidemiology and population genetics, where statistical analysis is an important part of the work. They are also often involved in the development of clinical medical trials, and the analysis of trial results.

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    Molecular Modeling

    Scientists who work in molecular modeling use computer software and biochemical theory to develop working models that mimic the behavior and interactions of molecules. In this field, the focus is on developing working models that accurately reflect how models behave in nature. Bioinformatics careers in this field often focus on drug design, where the ability to model molecular interactions helps develop drugs that are safe and effective.

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    Pure or Applied Research

    Careers in bioinformatics often involve pure or applied research in laboratories, where bioinformaticians may use biological or computational research skills to develop answers to specific questions. Their work may involve diverse tasks such as sequencing genes, developing new drugs, or using computer software to organize and analyze information.

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    Software Development

    The use of software and computer tools to organize and interpret information is an important part of most bioinformatics careers. Software is so important that an entire branch of bioinformatics is devoted to developing software that can be used to organize, manipulate, and analyze statistics, as well as other software such as that used by bioinformaticians working on molecular modeling.

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    Training and Education for a Bioinformatics Career

    Entering into the field of bioinformatics requires at minimum a graduate degree – in most cases a four-year degree isn’t enough. A Master’s degree or PhD is usually required, meaning it’s important to pay careful attention to school choices, as few schools offer graduate degrees in bioinformatics.

    A career in bioinformatics requires excellent problem-solving and analytical skills, and good attention to detail. Familiarity with computers, software, and technology is also important.