What Is Bioinformatics? An In-Depth Look at This Booming STEM Field

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Bioinformatics lies at the crossroads of biology and data science. Its goal is to find answers to biological questions by using or developing computational tools. Scientists today have access to computational tools that can mine biological data for insights into gene sequences, protein structures, organisms and disease.

To learn more, check out the infographic below created by the University of Illinois at Chicago Health Informatics and Health Information Management program

How bioinformatics is using data science to advance the work in several biotechnology sectors.

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What Is Bioinformatics?

Bioinformatics is the hot new buzzword that scientists and researchers are talking about, as the field offers many opportunities yet to be fully explored.

The Biomarkets Market

The global bioinformatics market will reach $19.8 billion by 2025, up from $7.5 billion in 2018. The prime movers behind growth in the U.S. bioinformatics market include a growing implementation of precision medicine, increasing investments made by academic institutions, and early adoption of advanced technology.

The global bioinformatics market includes bioinformatics services, knowledge management tools and bioinformatics platforms. Bioinformatics applications include drug design and chemoinformatics, genomics, proteomics, metabolomics and transcriptomics. Its sectors include academics, medical biotechnology, agricultural biotechnology and forensic biotechnology.

The Unique Field of Bioinformatics

The field of bioinformatics combines computer science, biology, information engineering, statistics and mathematics to examine and understand biological data. The concept aims to achieve numerous goals, such as the development of efficient algorithms for measuring sequence similarity, predicting interaction between proteins, extending experimental data through prediction and discerning how combinations of different data types can be used to understand natural phenomena. Bioinformatics benefits several fields, such as genome assembly, comparative genomics, gene family analysis and network analysis.

Applications of Bioinformatics

Bioinformatics is the key to unlocking the answers to complex questions across many fields. These answers have the potential to save many lives.

10 Fields Being Impacted by Bioinformatics

Agriculture has received a profound impact from bioinformatics. Crops like corn, cotton and potatoes have been made insect resistant with the addition of bacterial genes, leading to benefits like increased productivity and nutritional value.

Bioinformatics has also impacted waste management. This is due to the use of bacteria and microbes, which are used to help break down organic chemicals, solvents, and heavy metals in radioactive waste sites.

Environmental science benefits from bioinformatics which may help to sequence the microbial genome and ultimately uncover ways to lower levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Additionally, bioinformatics impacts biodefense through numerous applications. These applications include forensics, bio threat awareness, mitigation and medical intelligence.

Bioinformatics can also have an impact on the bioenergy and biofuels fields. The concept may help improve understanding and analysis of biofuel-producing pathways.

Veterinary science may be impacted by bioinformatics through a better understanding of livestock genetics. This understanding may help to create biologically meaningful and accurate predictions that will increase the efficiency of animal production and reproduction.

Bioinformatics has the potential to increase the accuracy of the gene therapy, which could lead to advanced drug delivery.

Medicine can also experience multiple impactful applications associated with bioinformatics. Some of these include advancements made in personalized medicine, preventative medicine, predictive medicine and molecular medicine.

In the biotechnology field, bioinformatics usage may lead to a greater understanding of the physiology and genetic makeup of bacteria. This could benefit a host of industries, like food manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.

Finally, pharmacotherapeutics could benefit from bioinformatics, which could help scientists identify pathogenic strains in pathogenic bacteria to establish controls to prevent the spread of infection.

Careers in Bioinformatics

Two popular roles in the field of bioinformatics, biostatistician and bioinformatics scientists, are at the forefront of making discoveries and advancements.

Biostatistician

Biostatisticians identify sources of disease outbreaks in humans and animals, develop mathematical or statistical models to analyze data, apply mathematical theories and techniques to solve problems, design surveys or experiments to collect data and communicate findings through reports and presentations. Biostatisticians need strong analytical, math, verbal and written communication and problem-solving skills to succeed. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, statistics or related field is required, although a master’s degree could help qualify candidates for more advanced positions. The median annual salary for the role in 2018 was $88,190.

Bioinformatics Scientist

Bioinformatics scientists develop or customize software applications; communicate research results via scientific publications, conference presentations or project reports; develop computational approaches and analytical tools; consult with researchers to analyze problems; recommend technology-based solutions or identify computational strategies; and analyze large molecular data sets. Essential skills include critical thinking, complex problem-solving and verbal and written communication competencies. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required for the position, whose median annual salary in 2018 was $79,590.

Changing the Future with Data

A career in bioinformatics offers opportunities to make an impact across many fields, such as medicine, pharmacotherapeutics and bioenergy. With a degree in health informatics, graduates will be ready to face the challenges that will shape the future of bioinformatics.

Sources

Boyce Thompson Institute, What Is Bioinformatics?
Encyclopedia Britannica, Goals of Bioinformatics
GlobeNewswire, Global Bioinformatics Market Will Reach USD 19.8 Billion by 2025: Zion Market Research
International Journal of Fauna and Biological Studies, “Advances and Applications of Bioinformatics in Various Fields of Life”
O*NET OnLine, Summary Report for: 19-1029.01 – Bioinformatics Scientists
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mathematicians and Statisticians