Five Things About Bioinformatics Everyone Should Know
- It Is a Hybrid Science
- It Is Driven By the Ability to Collect Data
- Countries Share Their Data With Each Other
- It Relies on Algorithms
- Mathematician Alan Turing Was a Founding Father
A person considering a degree in bioinformatics, computer and information research science or a related field should know these five facts about bioinformatics. The field of bioinformatics has grown rapidly and is expected to continue growing at a rate much faster than average through at least 2028. A person who has a solid understanding of bioinformatics and a degree in the field should have excellent career prospects.
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1. It Is a Hybrid Science
Bioinformatics is a hybrid science. It blends topics from the physical and life sciences with mathematics and computing. It draws from applied mathematics, statistics, computer programming, physics, biochemistry, biotechnology, neurobiology, genetics, genomics, microbiology, biology, and nanotechnology. A person has to have knowledge in all of these fields in order to become a bioinformatics specialist.
2. It Is Driven By the Ability to Collect Data
The pace of bioinformatics has increased dramatically along with the ability for computers and software systems to collect, store, organize, analyze and categorize data. The human genome was first sequenced in 1999, and it took years and hundreds of millions of dollars to complete. The National Institutes of Health is funding an initiative to drive the cost down to $1,000 or less to sequence an individual’s genome and to cut the time down to a day or two. This will be possible with nanotechnology, improved cloud storage, and faster processors.
3. Countries Share Their Data With Each Other
The sciences are highly competitive, with individual scientists aiming to receive glory for their work and their home countries hoping for recognition and accolades. In bioinformatics, there is a considerable amount of collaboration between scientists across international borders. According to Britannica, most scientific journals require scientists publishing genome sequences to first deposit their data into an international, free public repository before they will publish the study. Some of the data banks include the European Molecular Biology Laboratory Nucleotide Sequence Database of the UK, the DNA Data Bank of Japan, and GenBank of the National Center for Biotechnology Information in the USA.
4. It Relies on Algorithms
Most of the work in bioinformatics relies on algorithms. These are patterns that computers or software use in order to make predictions about future events. Algorithms are used in a lot of aspects of bioinformatics, including how proteins interact with each other, how proteins dock with cells and how and when genes are expressed given an external stimulus or internal stimuli, such as exposure to a chemical or a viral infection.
5. Alan Turing Was a Founding Father
Alan Turing used mathematical analysis and algorithms to help break Nazi codes during World War II at Bletchley Park in England. Turing, along with a team of women computer programmers, applied Boolean logic in order to decode Nazi messages. Turing’s work inspired his colleague, Claude Shannon, to write a doctoral thesis entitled “An Algebra for Theoretical Genetics.” This is an early theory upon which bioinformatics is built.
These facts about bioinformatics may clear up some misconceptions about what this field of study is, why it is important and what makes it useful to non-scientists. These facts also offer a pathway to learning more, and they might inspire a person to focus on this area of expertise for their degree. Understanding these five facts about bioinformatics could help a person select a satisfying career path.