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Biology Bioinformatics and Computational Biology? What is it really like?

  1. Mar 5, 2012 #1
    Hello, I am a high-school student applying to universities. I like math, and I like bio. I want a career that is the cross-section between these two subjects.

    I've been told about computational biology and bioinformatics. Can anyone please share any familiar experiences or any insight related to these programs?
    I want to know about these programs from a more personal and realistic point of view, ex. how satisfied people are with studying computational biology/ bioinformatics, the job prospects (I don't care about salary as long as there are interesting jobs available), what day-to-day tasks are like, etc.

    Any help, information, personal experiences, recommendations or insight would be greatly appreciated.

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 5, 2012 #2
    You know when I was applying for graduate schools computational biology and bioinformatics programs within universities had maybe only been on the scene for a few years, but I hear now that some places offer undergraduate programs in bioinformatics which sadly I've also heard you are better off double majoring.

    So I guess it really depends on how far you were willing to go in your education.
  4. Mar 5, 2012 #3
    I guess it is safe to say it is an emerging field. However, the more I think about all the insecurities in the science-related fields, the more I want to major in applied math. Bioinformatics interests me because it is the application of mathematics into biology, something that seems fascinating to me.
  5. Mar 5, 2012 #4
    as i know, there are 3 main thrusts of research in bioinformatics. 1 is genetic analysis and pattern recognition looking for genes. this is basically pure computer science and math and has nothing to do with biology except the letters ATCG are "DNA bases". 2 is biopolymer modeling, which is chemistry and physics, and also has nothing to do with biology. 3 is the dynamic modeling of ecosystems. for example, consider a wolf deer grass system. deer eats grass, but if it eats too fast, grass dies out and deer starves to death. wolf eats deer, but if deer get too few, wolves die out. if wolves get too few, deer multiply, eat grass, starve. lets say you start with X wolves, N deer and A square km of grass; what will it look like in 20 years? you can see this gets complicated even for a 3 organism system with no changing weather. this actually involves biology and math.

    however, companies do not really hire bioinformatics people as far as i know for this sort of stuff. the employable genetics and biochemistry research directions have you in direct competition with people who did chemistry/physics or straight statistics, CS or math, and even these positions usually require PHDs and are highly competitive.

    from what i can tell you, your chances of finding employment in finance with a bioinformatics degree are probably bigger than your chances of finding an actual bioinformatics job, but higher does not mean high.
  6. Mar 6, 2012 #5
    I'm confused by what you mean insecurities in science-related fields, perhaps you would want to elaborate more on that before I comment on it.

    ...but what you should also take into account is that since you are applying to universities, there is a chance there that your interests might peak more towards chemistry or physics in a few years after having some exposure to many different things. Heck it might even only further your love for math and it's applications to biology so you should take what us posters have to say with a grain of salt about the field and do what you think feels right to you.
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