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Bioinformatics - Overview


Bioinformatics programs prepare people to use math and computer science for medical research. Students take courses in math, statistics, and algorithms. They also learn how to perform research and how to program software.

You may hear the word "engineer" and think of someone who designs machines or electrical circuits, or even bridges. However, engineers also work in the "bio" fields: biomedical, biotechnology, and even plain-old biology. Add in the disciplines of computer programming and mathematics, and you have the field of bioinformatics.

In general, bioinformatics is the science of analyzing biological data. Bioinformatics allows scientists to analyze large amounts of genetic data. They can study protein sequences and compounds. In turn, this research can be used to develop new treatments and medicines for conditions such as leukemia and heart disease.

Bioinformatics draws on many disciplines, so your course work is varied. You take several courses in computer science, including software design, database management, and algorithms. You study statistics, computer programming, and even computer graphics. You also study biomolecular and genetic engineering. In addition, you take several courses in biology, especially genetics.

About 45 four-year colleges and universities offer programs in bioinformatics. Bachelor's degrees typically take four years to complete, and master's degrees take an additional two. A doctoral program typically takes three to five years to complete, less if you already have a master's degree.

Typically, a degree in bioinformatics prepares you to work as a researcher in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.
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