Bioinformatics is far from the best-known field of science jobs, but it is a steadily emerging and increasingly important one. It has been described in various ways, including – by the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University – as “the application of computational techniques to analyse the information associated with biomolecules on a large-scale”.
A perhaps simpler way to understand it is as an amalgamation of biology, IT and computer science into a single subject. With ‘big data’ now ubiquitous across a wide range of industries, including life sciences research, scientists with computer science know-how are well-placed to take advantage of the ever-increasing breadth of career opportunities in the burgeoning bioinformatics sector.
What do bioinformaticists do?
Another way to describe the chief task of a bioinformaticist is as the logging, coding and/or retrieval of all biological information – especially proteins, DNA and mRNA – in an easily accessible format.
At the most basic level, a bioinformaticist is responsible for creating and maintaining databases of biological information. The majority of such databases consist of nucleic acid sequences and the protein sequences derived from them.
However, the most challenging bioinformatics tasks involve the analysis of sequence information, encompassing not only the discovery of the genes in DNA sequences but also the development of methods to predict the structure and/or function of newly found proteins and structural RNA sequences.
Such duties as the clustering of protein sequences into families, the alignment of similar proteins and the generation of phylogenetic trees are also central to the work of the best-qualified bioinformatics professionals.
Why is bioinformatics becoming so relevant?
It seems that there has never been a greater amount of biological data being generated than there is now, with the point at which biology, statistics and computer science cross bringing an abundance of new and exciting opportunities. Sure enough, professionals with experience of identifying, compiling, analysing and visualising huge amounts of biological and healthcare information have also never been in greater demand.
The flowering of bioinformatics as its own field has been attributed in part to a change in how industry and academia perceive it. As one bioinformatics professor, Wim Van Criekinge, has observed in an article by Science magazine: “Scientists and companies used to look at bioinformatics as a tool... but the subject has evolved from a service, like histology, to its own research arena... bioinformaticists are now the motor of the innovation.”
What are the main bioinformatics employers?
Those seeking rewarding bioinformatics roles are well-advised to look towards Cambridge, where several of the big research institutes in this field, including the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the European Bioinformatics Institute, can be found.
However, candidates with bioinformatics skills are also regularly recruited by big pharmaceutical companies such as AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline. Finally, there are also various smaller firms making use of bioinformatics, including those involved in personal care products, industrial organisms and agricultural applications.
Whatever the bioinformatics role to which you aspire may be – perhaps as a bioinformatician, biostatistician, head of bioinformatics or any of a broad range of other jobs – we can help you to find and secure it here at Hyper Recruitment Solutions.
Learn more about the depth of specialist expertise that we can offer to bioinformatics candidates, as well as the relevant available jobs for which you can apply right now.