bioinformatics, genomes, biology etc. "I don't mean to sound angry and cynical, but I am, so that's how it comes across"

So you want to be a computational biologist?

Nick Loman and I were approached by Nature Biotech to write a commentary based on our blog posts, here and here respectively, and if you’re reading this then the commentary is out here.

The way I see it, this is a great opportunity to get my message out to a wider readership, and publicize the blog (despite Titus’ assertion, I do it for love not money).  Working with Nick is always a pleasure too, of course 🙂

These are the posts (and messages) I really want to draw attention to:

  1. A guide for the lonely bioinformatician – this is by far and away my most popular post, with over 7000 page views since it was published – I mean, this post spoke to people, it really hit the mark.  In the post I lament the rise of the “pet” bioinformatician, someone who exists solely to analyse the data generated by the wet lab they are employed by.  There’s plenty of advice in there on how to survive this experience!
  2. Bioinformatics is not something you are taught, it’s a way of life – the post that allegedly caught Nature Biotech’s attention, here I make the point that bioinformaticians are a little bit different to everyone else;  we don’t sit and wait to be trained, we get a laptop and just get on with it, using whatever tools we have at our disposal.  Many bioinformaticians are self taught, and it’s an incredibly rewarding experience.
  3. The alternative “what it takes to be a bioinformatician” – in this post, I make the point that bioinformatics is about more than running command line tools, writing scripts and pipelines and giving the data to a biologist – you are a biologist too.  Bioinformaticians are scientists, and we can (and do) carry out the full scientific method, from defining the hypothesis, designing the experiment, carrying it out, and interpreting the results.

I hope on some level these messages hit home, I hope they might inspire one or two readers to be better scientists.  If you are a young bioinformatician or computational biologist, what I want to say to you is this:  “yes you can”.  It doesn’t matter what the question is – you can do it.  It might take time and hard work, but you can do it.  All the information you need is out there, and there is a strong and helpful community.  What are you waiting for?

1 Comment

  1. Nice article Mick.. I hope this will reach to the young bioinformaticians and help them decide their way ahead.
    I had made a similar effort, but focused more on building a strong foundation for young bioinformaticians (http://infoplatter.blogspot.in/2013/10/what-makes-you-good-bioinformatician.html). As you have pretty accurately said most of the bioinformaticians are self taught. I hope these cumulative efforts might help such inspired ones. Keep it up.

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