Biological Sciences are divided into a number of disciplines in order to understand biological phenomena well and easy. Most of these disciplines are dependent on each other and thus one needs to have knowledge of multiple disciplines in order to understand it. Lets have an example of Biochemistry; to be a Biochemist you must have knowledge about both Biology and Chemistry. So we can call such kind of multidisciplinary as Network based disciplines because they form a kind of network among multiple areas.
In the current era of science and technology Bio-researchers are struggling in their areas of interest to unveil the unexplored nature and solve a Biological problem. So amongst number of fields in Biological science we have a fast growing new and advance field that is termed as Bioinformatics which is a fusion of life and information technology. We can also define it as a branch of Biological science where we collect, classify, store and analyze biological data using computers especially.
Bioinformatics is a multidisciplinary field, which requires expertise in biology, genetics, mathematics, statistics, computers, physics, etc. There are so many other factors involved in this field of science and being a student of bioinformatics let me share few of them which I think should be consider if you want to be successful in bioinformatics.
1-Be a good biologist: Being a bioinformatics specialist, you must know about a living system; it may be both on cellular and molecular level. Lets say I am working on designing a drug for a disease so obviously I must have knowledge about how immune system works and how a biological system respond to that effect. Lacking basic information means “shooting in the dark”. Therefore, it is very important to be a good biologist before you plan to be a good Bioinformatician.
2-Be a computer past master: Being a Bioinformatician, you must be a computer expert because 99 per cent of your project will be computer based. Secondly, a lot of software and online servers are used to do different tasks and analysis during a project which is not possible if a person is not good with computer. Apart from these, different software requires different operating systems .e.g. Molecular dynamic simulations and genomics studies is most suitable to be run on Linux OS. Similarly, a software “Enzyme-X” mostly works on MAC OS. Thats why a person must be used to with all kind of operating systems. I will prefer Linux to be the best operating system for a Bioinformatician and I believe every bioinformatician must learn it.
3-Be a good Programmer: Bioinformatics allows you to create software and tools for different biological/research processes and thus saves your time with great accuracy and precision. So to be a tool creator one should know about a very common programing language “C++”; because majority of the software are written in C++. These days bioinformatics code writers also use Python, Perl, PHP, MatLab and R for statistical related analysis. In short a person who wants to be a good Bioinformatician must be familiar with such kind of computer languages.
4-Molecular biology and Genetics: It is mandatory that a person must have knowledge about Molecular Biology and Genetics because Bioinformatician mostly work on DNA and proteins. If you know about how a gene expression, translation and transcription is processed and have the idea about how proteins behave in certain environment, then you can figure out how a simple gene can cause a disease and how can you manipulate the biological pathways for bringing it to normal state. Moreover, you should have the knowledge about immune system of the organism if you are planning to design a molecular drug.
5-Statistician and Mathematician: Bioinformatics or computational Biology has a great significance that it can reduce the number of wet lab experiments from 100 to 10 or 5. We predict the best options and then we confirm it in a wet lab. Also Bioinformatics helps us to manage large biological data very easily which requires data mining. For such kind of data mining and epidemiology studies, heavy calculations and algorithms are involved.
6-Excitement about work: Projects in Bioinformatics are sometimes easy but very long and time consuming which sometimes make you uncomfortable and frustrated. To overcome such situations; always be excited about your work and hope something new comes out of it. Be patient because sometimes small tasks take too much time and energy. You can be a successful person in every profession when your passion becomes your job.
7-Creative skills: A good Bioinformatician is a very creative person and solves a biological problem in an interesting way and creates new ways to overcome obstacles in the way of research.
These are some worthy points which I have gathered from my personal experiences and it will help you if you want to be a successful Bioinformatician.
The writer is an undergraduate student at Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.