Exploring this Job
One of the easiest ways to learn more about bioinformatics is to read books about the field. One book suggestion is Bioinformatics For Dummies, 2nd edition, by Jean-Michel Claverie and Cedric Notredame (For Dummies, 2006). Visit the following Web sites to learn more about bioinformatics: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gquery/?term=bioinformatics and https://www.genome.gov/25019999/understanding-bioinformatics-and-sequencing. The Web sites of related professional associations such as the Bioinformatics Organization are also good resources. Visit the Biotechnology Institute's Biotechnology Careers page on its Web site, http://www.biotechinstitute.org, for information about careers and biotechnology facts. Join science and computer clubs at school. Talk to a bioinformatics specialist about his or her career. Ask the following questions: What made you want to enter this career? What are your main and secondary job duties? What do you like least and most about your job? How did you train for this field? What advice would you give young people who are interested in the field?
Bioinformatics is used to develop new ways to study, diagnose, and treat genetic diseases such as muscular dystrophy, family-linked cancers, and Huntington’s disease. It is also used to help reduce the time it takes to develop new drugs (such as those that fight AIDS) and in many other medical applications. Bioinformatics specialists work closely with software developers, hardware engineers, and molecular biologists to develop new genome analysis systems.
To conduct research, bioinformatics specialists design computer databases and develop complicated mathematical formulas called algorithms to gather and analyze biological and biochemical data such as nucleotide and amino acid sequences, protein structures, and protein domains. These algorithms allow them to identify major risk factors for cancer, lung disease, and heart disease. They can also be used to determine the role environmental factors such as tobacco smoke or pollutants have on overall human health.
Bioinformatics specialists may be scientists themselves, or they may have more computer-oriented backgrounds and receive requests for assistance from scientists who need technological tools to analyze data.
In addition to developing algorithms and studying data, bioinformatics specialists have other duties. They publish new bioinformatics results in scientific journals or present them at industry conferences; manage public and private databases to ensure that they are accurate and functioning correctly; conduct scientific presentations to coworkers, government officials, and potential financial donors; prepare reports for managers regarding their findings; and manage staff such as bioinformatics technicians. They also stay up to date regarding current hardware and software developments by attending seminars, workshops, and conferences, and by taking Web-based courses.