What happen when you combine biology and information technology into one field? The answer: “You create a new study field called Bioinformatics and to larger extend Biotechnology. Few years ago, no one heard about this field but today it is one of the hottest and most promising growing field in the industry.
Basically, Bioinformatics is the study on the use of information technology to process biological information. In biology there are so many information that will take many years for scientists to identify, analyze and understand. Some are so complex that it may take decade or more just to study them. What bioinformatics field do is to use computer technology to process large amounts of biologically information such as DNA sequences or X-rays information to shorten the research by Scientists and help them to create better drugs, new therapies in medical and pharmaceutical industry or new crops, disease resistant crops in agriculture, and new synthetic products such as oils, gas, materials. For example, Synthetic biology, an attempt to adapt certain biology and material science methods to the development of biological products to meet users needs. Medical robotic is an attempt to develop robots that can perform various medical tasks such as perform surgical, help relieve strain or replacing a human functions etc.
According to U.S. government study, the bioinformatics job market have an annual growth rate of 23%. Since this is a very new area, it does not have enough workers so it is also a good choice for students to get into. Today, this field is offered in only a few countries and as a graduate degree (Master or Ph.D level). If you want to go into this field, you should have a good background in computer science, software engineering, business statistics, basic knowledge of biology and chemistry.
Graduates with bioinformatics, biotechnology degrees can expect to find employment in a variety of different areas from hospital to pharmaceutical industry and sometime in agriculture. Salary range from $150,000 to $250,000 in the U.S. However, this field is a demanding and rapidly evolving area that requires workers to stay on top of technology and new developments. Many experts believe biotechnology is the new field that will change the science of the 21stcentury. An U.S. government official said: “If the computer and software have impacted the last 30 years of the 20th century then biotechnology will change the next 50 years of the 21st century. Imagine that through biotechnology, we can develop drugs to cure cancer, AIDS, and all kind of diseases. Imagine that we can create synthetic oil that sell for one tenth of current oil price, imagine that we can create disease resistant crops that give ten times the yield over regular crops and grow faster, better with limited water consumption. What happen in this field will change everything from economic, society, politics, and help solve many global issues”.
Probably the most important trend in this field is the increasing availability of biological data, that many scientists do not know they exist few years ago. The discovery of genome sequences and protein sequences have help scientists to understand gene expression data, protein expression, protein structures etc. This will help scientists to come up with new drugs, new ways of treatment diseases. Ultimately, many discoveries in bioinformatics will benefit the entire world.
- Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University