Tips & Tricks
Careers in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
Bioinformatics is an interesting field of research combining biological sciences and computer sciences. In this article, we will discuss making careers in bioinformatics for starters.
Making a career in bioinformatics is not a difficult task as it sounds unless you are seeking it without interest. Bioinformatics is being widely used in biological research these days. You can look for a job in the private sector or academics. Wages depend upon the education, job sector, and experience.
What do bioinformaticians do?
Basically, bioinformaticians solve biological problems by applying computer science techniques and methods. They develop several software, tools, and also possess expertise in analyzing the outputs of the software. A detailed article has been published previously explaining the roles of bioinformaticians/bioinformaticists.
Bioinformatics researchers try to answer scientific questions by doing experiments in silico with available software or by developing new ones. They explore different programs and/or develop new ones if needed and apply them to solve real-world problems.
What bioinformatics research include?
Generally, bioinformatics researchers ask questions such as
- “What is a methodology to find/design a drug for a particular disease?”
- “In order to study the complete evolutionary history of an organism or a genus, what tools must be used?”
- “If required software/tools are not available then how to develop one?”
- “How can we find new ways to reduce computing time?”
Basic research in bioinformatics includes the following tasks:
- designing experiments and methodologies.
- writing proposals to get research grant or approval for projects.
- conducting experiments in silico
- analyzing data
- writing papers, publishing them in reputed scientific journals, and presenting at scientific conferences.
Jobs in bioinformatics involve research work in a company (private sector), or government organizations and agencies, universities, colleges, and non-profit organizations. Bioinformatics job titles include Research Assistant, Research Associate, research scientist. At higher levels such as assistant professor, associate professor, a professor (in colleges and universities), lead scientist (private company), and principal investigator (government labs, or non-profit organizations), bioinformatics researchers have an added responsibility of managing a lab or a research group and postdoctoral fellows.
Teaching in this area include managing classes, preparing lectures according to the syllabus, teaching classes along with managing a lab, grading and writing exams, and advising students. At college and university level, professors direct a lab and do research work along with teaching classes, whereas lecturers only teach.
How to prepare for a career in bioinformatics?
It depends on at what level of education you are right now. If you are in high school, then it would be a good start to choose subjects wisely including biology and informatics practices. However, you can always learn bioinformatics and computational biology if you have an interest in it. It doesn’t matter whether you have a biology or computational background or not, however, you might need to work hard.
Here are some books mentioned in this article that will help you to get started on learning bioinformatics. Following is a table showing different activities you need to focus on at different levels of education. Further, it always requires a Ph.D. degree to work on high posts in colleges and universities. Post Ph.D., researchers choose to work as postdoctoral research associates for additional experience.
|Informatics Practices||Life Sciences||Bioinformatics|
|Biology||Focus on Bioinformatics||Object-Oriented Programming|
|Mathematics (optional)||Biological Databases||Python, Perl, R|
|HTML, C/C++||Software usage||Java, PHP, MySQLi, NoSQL|
|Oracle/SQL||Basic programming- C/C++|
In the field of bioinformatics, it is always good to learn advanced programming languages, especially object-oriented programming. It will help you develop new software and tools as per the requirements of the biological problems. Besides, participate in some workshops and seminars/conferences that will help you develop technical, communication, and leadership skills.
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It is good to have questions in mind and they can be solved in a way as quoted by Sir Einstein:
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
In this article, I have collected some of the most Frequently Asked Questions while performing site-specific and/ or blind docking. You have to consider a lot of factors before performing an actual docking on a protein with a specific ligand.
Question: How do you predict protein’s binding sites?
Question: What is the difference between the blind docking and binding site based docking?
Question: I have to find the 4 Armstrong neighborhood of a ligand. When I take the receptor molecule without adding hydrogen bonds and find 4A nbd of ligand, it gives one result. But when I first add hydrogens to the receptor molecule and then after finding the 4A nbd of ligand, it obviously gives different results. I want to know which one is better ??
Tips & Tricks
Survival guide: How to overcome lab politics and not become a lab rat
If you find yourself in a laboratory full of people with scientific temperament, it can be exciting, awesome and hilarious. You may experience a real life “big bang theory” episode and witness all characters around you.
However, for the uninitiated, a large number of labs are a flourishing ground of rivalry and war grounds reiterating the fact on its inhabitant that they live in a maze.
Lab politics can be nasty, and those who don’t want to get involved are almost certainly the easiest target.
Here are a few tips based on my experience in labs on how to survive lab politics and prevent yourself from getting into situations uncalled for.
- Communicate Backbiting and misinformation is the nuclear weapon of every mole. They pass on false information about you leading to complexities. It ranges from simple misinformation about you being absent or drunk during work hours when you are not, to some complicated statements attributed to you. You can deal with this situation through regular communication. with your peers. Every one of them. Especially if you sense that your guide is growing weary of you. communicate as clearly as possible and if you sense misinformation, make it a priority to point it out without targeting the person acting as a mole. This will be such a blow…..oops!
- Be Humble
Back in my graduation days, I was made a leader for a group project, I worked harder than everybody suddenly realizes that it was only me that was working for the whole duration. So I became proud which reflected in my behavior. Seeing this, two girls approached the guide with some story, which I am still unaware of. The guide, who happens to be a lady, immediately removed me from the project & my name from the manuscript after it completed. The results were published without my name, the first author being that girl who was not even fully aware of the topic. Moral? even if you are doing everything, be humble or you risk being a lab rat.
- Divert to productivity
When somebody else is the target, it is relatively easy for you to just ignore what is happening but remaining silent in such situations will lead to an exponential increase in it and you never know when the dial points at you. You may try shifting focus to an interesting observation, experiment, or paper. This way, you show them that what these guys are talking about is not worth the time.
- Don’t be evil If someone is doing something a certain way and you know they are wrong, just point it to them. Don’t go to your guide to complain. If you complain too much it is perceived as a negative trait. If you have problems try to resolve them on your own rather than asking someone to do them for you. If you can’t do it yourself, try to get help rather than ordering. Nobody owes you anything so be humble.
- Don’t over-promise
You may become a target without even saying a word! yes! it happens. The world is full of hatred for achievers. So if you have a lot in your kitty, don’t keep flaunting it. don’t promise that you will do this and that. Just keep doing things one by one. So they won’t even notice that you were running your own race and they were not even the participants.
6. Don’t get discouraged
If you are surrounded by ‘lab politicians’ and they criticize your work and working habits, then don’t get discouraged, because they would be trying to distract you from your work. In fact, it is a good sign, great success comes with criticism. Don’t believe what they say because ‘politicians’ never want anyone else’s account to be filled, just say thanks to them with a smile and keep going in your direction.
These are the tips that I have learned by working at labs in the University of Delhi, Indian Institute of Science Education & Research – Kolkata, Jamia Millia Islamia & Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Although I have tried to accommodate as much as I could, do you think I have missed something? would like to add something to the story? go ahead and comment below.
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