A person thinking of or in the process of earning a degree in computer science, biotechnology or a related field may want to know, “What is bioinformatics?” This is important to know because the field of bioinformatics is growing at a rapid pace. This occupation has a strong career outlook, and a person with a degree in it could find themselves with plenty of job opportunities.
What is Bioinformatics?
Bioinformatics is a method of understanding biology in terms of macromolecules and using the methods of computer science in order to organize and understand the information from those molecules. For example, the major molecule explored in bioinformatics is deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA. The set of human DNA is thought to have about 30,000 genes within it, but an individual’s DNA also contains other genetic information that has an unknown function or purpose. With computer science and its algorithms, statistical analysis tools and applied mathematics, scientists and researchers can understand more about the DNA of populations as well as individuals.
Sciences and Methods in Bioinformatics
Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary science. This means that it puts together different theories, methods and techniques from other sciences that have been established for a longer period of time. Bioinformatics uses physics to understand how proteins fold and how mutations occur. It uses chemistry in order to understand the methylation process that changes or turns off a gene. Bioinformatics also includes biochemistry for understanding how reactions take place in a biological system. Microbiology is a part of it too because an infection can turn a gene on or off. Some other sciences and methods used in bioinformatics include biomedical engineering, neurology, systems biology, genetics, genomics, biostatistics, computational medicine, computer science, statistics, and applied mathematics.
Types of Data in Bioinformatics
According to the National Library of Medicine, there are three large types of data sets used in bioinformatics. Those include expression data, genome sequences, and macromolecular structures. Bioinformatics also uses information from taxonomy trees for evolution or ontology of genes, metabolic pathways for gene and protein expression and feedback and protein to protein interaction networks. Bioinformatics also relies on data from protein structures, protein geometry, phylogenetic trees and clusters of gene expressions.
Goals and Purpose of Bioinformatics
Bioinformatics is often described as a practical science. Its purpose is to understand biology by using technology to handle all of the data that is available from biological systems. One of the goals of bioinformatics is to make predictions about genes, proteins and biological systems. This can be easier to do on a computer or in a laboratory than in a population of people. Another goal of bioinformatics is to discover new biology. For example, bioinformatics could be used to see how a drug would be effective at treating a rare genetic disorder caused by a specific mutation in a population.
Understanding what bioinformatics is allows a person to choose an undergraduate major or a series of courses in order to prepare themselves for a career in it. Familiarity with what bioinformatics is could also help a person decide if they have the right set of skills to do this type of job. Knowing, “What is bioinformatics?” is a good step forward in planning a career and choosing a college major.