MDIF#8: Preparing for a Bioinformatics or Genomics Related Career

Here are some insights from from Chris Moy, Senior Scientist, GlaxoSmithKline, on the basic academic background needed for a bioinformatics or genomics related career.  Biomedical Engineers interested in the area of bioinformatics / genomic / proteomics / systems biology should pay close attention to this feedback.

“I broke the list up into 4 categories….Technical Core, Bioinformatics, Biology, and Clinical. The greatest number of jobs is probably in clinical field but some of the academic stuff are the foundations and, in my opinion, build the foundations of the knowledgebase a student needs. I may have missed a few things but this is what I could think of off the top of my head. Those items with an asterisk I felt were most important. I hope this helps.


Technical Core
SAS programming (This is a huge field in clinical research with a ton of demand)
*Perl, Pythons
*Databases (SQL, ORACLE, etc)
*Unix Basics
R Programming (More academic)

*Gene Expression Measurements (Transcriptomics)
*SNP Profiling (eg. Whole Genome Associations)
*Genome Browsers – UCSC, Ensembl, etc (a must in my opinion)
*Navigating NCBI website
Gene Ontology (More academic)

– *Genetics, Human Genome Project, Other Genomes (Mouse, Chimp, etc)
– *Molecular Biology Techniques (just the basics, PCR, Genotyping, Sequencing, etc)
– *DNA Transcription, mRNA Translation
– *Protein Structure & Function
– *Genetic Diseases (Mendelian)
– Complex Diseases (non-mendelian)
– Stem Cells (more advanced)
– Epigenetics (more advanced)
– Gene Regulation

Clinical Emphasis
– Survey Course on Medicines Development
– Pharmacology, Pharmacokinetics
– Clinical Research Design
– Adverse Events”

Chris worked with me on the Biomedical Informatics Program at DeVry University.  Unfortunately the student population that we were marketing to didn’t appreciate the potential and the program had to be canceled for lack of interest.  I include this information here because there is a demand for technical professionals that are both proficient at programming and have the appropriate depth in biology to exploit the information in the vast genomic databases that have been created.  Both the academic research programs and the pharmaceutical industry need these professionals.  Several courses in statistics ( including one that specifically addresses genomic applications) and a course in SAS programming would provide a solid background for a B.S. Biomedical Engineer with a strong software background and interested in this area.  The statistics knowledge can also provide the basis for fall back position because there is a consistent demand for statistical programmers in general in the job market.  The R software is a powerful statistical program that is freely available on the internet but as mentioned not typically used in industry or business.

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