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Focus on majors: Bioinformatics

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In an era where data drives discovery and technology reshapes the boundary of what we thought possible, bioinformatics stands as a centerpiece of innovation and a dynamic area of exploration. Each day we see new advancements in biology and medical technology, in part due to breakthroughs by bioinformatic professionals who are fusing science and computation. It can be confusing at first glance, but think of it as biology meets computer programming. With a growing number of new job opportunities and a high post-graduate starting salary, bioinformatics is a lucrative field of study.


Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary major that uses the fundamentals of mathematics, statistics, biology, computer science, and engineering to study biological data. Through bioinformatics, professionals develop algorithms and systems to analyze complex data such as DNA, cellular organization, and genome annotation. They work to discover insights about health and biology for the betterment of humanity. In doing so, these scientists impact areas like pharmaceuticals, medical technology, biotechnology, and medical information


In undergraduate courses, bioinformatics majors focus predominantly on biology and computer science. Students take courses in molecular modeling, structural biology, genetics, microbiology, chemistry, and physics. They learn how to complete mathematical computations that are pivotal to biological research. Students also develop problem-solving and verbal skills. While the courses are biology-heavy, the major allows bioinformatics students to do interdisciplinary research and develop a specific lens of focus. At many universities, undergraduate students are active participants in real-world biology experiments and programs emphasizing hands-on learning. Students who are strong analytical thinkers, pay attention to detail, and are diligently studious would be a good fit for the major. It is common to   pursue a Master of Science or a Ph.D. in a specific subset following an undergraduate degree, such as biological models, biomedicine, computational algorithms, or computational genetics.


Bioinformatics does share certain characteristics with other fields; however, it is much more interdisciplinary. Work within bioinformatics would substantially involve software and computer tool development. Additionally, while it does fall under the umbrella of public health-related work, bioinformatics is predominantly centered on the cellular level of the human species. If computer programming is not your passion, explore similar fields overlapping with biology such as:


Biostatistics is the application of statistical techniques to health-related scientific research. Professionals in this field gather data related to living things and design research studies. Biostatisticians will often pursue research outside the scope of human health since studying plants and animals is crucial to analyzing certain diseases.

Biomedical Engineering majors study the overlap of engineering and principles of biology and chemistry. They learn how to create and design medical devices that can aid in the treatment of diseases, and to develop new technologies that can repair the human body. Biomedical engineers will sometimes also use computer programming to research and analyze diseases.


Computational Biology students use mathematical and computational methods as a means to address experimental questions in biology. Using these methods, computational biologists study biological, behavioral, and social systems and create practical applications. Although similar to bioinformatics, computational biology is viewed as a subset of biology whereas bioinformatics develops the tools that are used in biological experimentation.


Over the next ten years, it is predicted that we will see more than a 30% growth in demand for mathematicians and more than a 20% growth in demand for computer and informatics scientists. Bioinformatics majors are well-positioned to enter a broad range of fields that require specialized skill sets. The interdisciplinary nature of computational biology also makes the degree highly valuable. While they can engage in research and be  employed through research organizations and universities, bioinformaticians are more likely to work for an industrial or corporate employer, such as pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies. Daily work centers around writing code and evaluating results using computation and software tools. Importantly, these data may be used to develop and revolutionize new treatments and medical products.


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