B ioinformatics Funding Boost Means More Science Training

A 5-year, ?189 million boost to the Netherlands? genomics and bioinformatics research program, announced earlier this year, has resulted in several new training courses for science Ph.D. students and postdocs.

The biological sciences are changing. Complete genomes of several organisms have been unraveled, and some people even speak of a new ?postgenome? era. Scientists have shifted from studying single molecules to investigating large complexes of interacting biological macromolecules involved in processes such as metabolic pathways, gene expression, and development of disease. There is a clear trend to work on such projects in an interdisciplinary context involving biology, chemistry, and physics, both in academia and industry.

This evolution demands that the ?new? scientist develop different skills, and an intensive education in one of the classical scientific disciplines is not enough to meet today?s requirements. He or she must be able to build and cross bridges between different disciplines, understand their scientific languages, and develop a broad view on science in general.

Bioinformatics is a relatively new scientific field that aims to solve biological problems using computer science and basic knowledge from chemistry and physics. Therefore, a bioinformatician fits very well in the image of the new interdisciplinary scientist. There is, however, not a single definition for a bioinformatician. One can have a background in chemistry, with some additional training in programming; another may be a pharmacologist using applications in bioinformatics to design new drugs. Because of its broad interdisciplinary character, it is always possible to place greater emphasis on one or other discipline within a bioinformatics education, according to one's own interests and skills.

The number of expected vacancies in bioinformatics in the Netherlands for this year alone varies from around 100 for ?real? bioinformaticians to an enormous number of jobs for scientists with some experience in bioinformatics. Especially in the life sciences, there is a need for people who know how a computer can help investigators set out a research strategy and avoid needless lab experiments.

Most biologists or chemists prefer lab work to sitting in front of a computer. Gert Vriend, head of the Centre for Molecular and Biomolecular Informatics (CMBI) in Nijmegen, says that "With a month of hard work in the lab, you can easily save yourself an hour in front of the PC". A lot of research labs are therefore looking for experts in the use of bioinformatics technology.

So, some education in bioinformatics is an important asset for today?s scientist. The CMBI at the University of Nijmegen offers training in bioinformatics for undergraduate, graduate, Ph.D. students, and postdocs. This summer, the second bioinformatics summer school will take place from 19 to 30 August. The course is free; participants will have only travel and accommodation costs. It offers a sound introduction to bioinformatics, including some knowledge of the most important applications.

If you want to become a bioinformatics expert, you could consider master's training via CMBI. This 2-year course is a custom-made package. Each master's student attends several classes during the first year, covering topics from thermodynamics and molecular biology to programming, depending on the background and career perspective of the student. The second part of this training is a research project in bioinformatics that takes another year.

The CMBI also offers several other courses in bioinformatics. All are open to scientists of academic institutes or industry. For more information, please see the education pages of the CMBI Web site, or contact Celia van Gelder.

More Bioinformatics Links:

Bioinformatics Courses in the Netherlands

10-days Summer school

19-30 August 2002

This introduction to bioinformatics is organized by CMBI, University of Nijmegen, and is intended for Ph.D. students (AiO?s or those soon to be) who work, or intend to start working in, bioinformatics, or in genomics or related projects with a large bioinformatics component.

Practical Bioinformatics

May-June 2002

The aim of this hands-on course, organized by the Institute of Life Sciences and Chemistry (Hogeschool van Utrecht), is to provide insight and practical knowledge for searching and analyzing DNA and protein sequences. It is mainly for analysts (MBO+ of HBO level) but also open to others.

Bioinformatics Tutorial on the Internet.