By Fran Molloy
Choose a career in the wide-open field of bioinformatics, and help save the world.
Torn between science and maths, and tempted by computer science? You could be a candidate for one of the most fascinating and fastest-moving areas of science: bioinformatics.
Bioinformaticians study massive datasets of biological information, which can help us to create personalised medical treatments and better understand diseases.
They are doing groundbreaking work in Australia and around the globe, and bioinformaticians are in high demand, with graduates needed across industry, government and research.
Top Australian bioinformaticians include Professor Terry Speed, from Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, who was recently awarded a major science prize for his work to better understand how cancer cells grow and replicate.
CSIRO research scientist Dr Jen Taylor is using bioinformatics to support international teams that are developing more resilient cowpea crops – staple foods in Sub-Saharan Africa, where there are critical food shortages.
Dr Tim Kahlke works with the CSIRO’s Marine and Atmospheric Research team in Tasmania doing environmental work. He’s using next-generation gene sequencing – mapping the genes that make up an organism’s ‘blueprint’ – to identify miniscule marine microbes.
Professor Graham Farquhar, from the Australian National University’s Research School of Biology, has mathematically decoded the process of photosynthesis, leading to methods to produce drought-resistant wheat crops.
Graham’s research found that wind speeds are decreasing under climate change and reducing evaporation rates.
“Our future planet will be wetter, and some ecosystems will respond to this more than others,” he says.
Professor Nadia Rosenthal was the Founding Director of the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute at Monash University and Scientific Head of EMBL Australia. Her work looks at how human cells can regenerate, rather than decline, with age and disease.
“Regenerative medicine is a relatively new way of looking at health. It’s not waiting for the problem to happen, but trying to diagnose the underlying issue instead,” she says.
Bioinformatics experts have been key to solving some of the world’s biggest problems – such as containing the 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa; predicting near-extinction for endangered animals to prioritise conservation efforts; and producing solutions to complex agricultural problems to help feed the world’s growing population.
If you want to be at the frontier of world-changing battles against disease, climate change and more, studying bioinformatics could pave your way.
GET INTO SCI + BIOINFORMATICS!
Check out some work and study options…
Bioinformatician, biostatistician, computational biologist, environmental scientist, gene analyst, genomics bioinformatician + more!
Engineering (Hons) (Bioinformatics), UNSW Australia
Science (Bioinformatics), University of Sydney
Science (Advanced) (Hons) (Bioinformatics), Griffith University
Biotechnology (Hons) (Bioinformatics), University of Queensland
Genetics (Hons) (Bioinformatics), Australian National University
Biomedical Science, University of Technology, Sydney
Author: Fran Molloy
FRAN MOLLOY is a freelance journalist and university lecturer whose career has spanned newspapers, radio and online publications. She writes about business, careers, research, science and environment.