Master of Science in Bioinformatics

General

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Program Description

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Overview

The bioinformatics masters combine biotechnology, computer programming, and computational mathematics to prepare you to utilize and create technologies that will discover, treat, and cure a range of medical illnesses.

The MS degree in bioinformatics provides students with a strong foundation in biotechnology, computer programming, computational mathematics, statistics, and database management. Graduates are well-prepared for academia and careers in the biotechnology, bioinformatics, pharmaceutical, and vaccine industries.

In laboratory exercises and assignments, students learn to sequence DNA and use computer programs to analyze DNA sequences and predict molecular models.

Bioinformatics is a field that has been developing over the last thirty years. It is a discipline that represents a marriage between biotechnology and computer technologies and has evolved through the convergence of advances in each of these fields. Today bioinformatics is a field that encompasses all aspects of the application of computer technologies to biological data. Computers are used to organize, link, analyze, and visualize complex sets of biological data.

With the advent of high-throughput technologies such as Next Generation Sequencing and proteomics, bioinformatics has become essential to the biological sciences in general. In the past, laboratories were able to manage and analyze their experimental data in spreadsheets. Many research labs now require the expertise of dedicated bioinformatics core centers or their own in-house bioinformaticists.

Graduates of our programs have entered such laboratories, both in industry and academia, as bioinformaticists. Some have also gone on to leverage their biotechnology experiences as wet lab experimentalists themselves. The diversity of skills our students cultivate has given them access to a wide range of career choices.

Based on consultation with individuals within the industry nationwide, the job market is rich with opportunities for those who obtain a graduate degree in bioinformatics, particularly when coupled with research as thesis work. This research provides exposure to real-world problems—and their solutions—not otherwise attainable in an academic setting.

The program provides you with the capability to enter the bioinformatics workforce and become leaders in the field. The curriculum is designed to fulfill the needs of students with diverse educational and professional backgrounds. Individuals entering the program typically have degrees in biology, biotechnology, chemistry, statistics, computer science, information technology, or a related field. The program accommodates this diversity by providing a comprehensive bridge program for students who need to supplement their education before entering the program. The program offers two tracks, one for students with backgrounds in the life sciences and one for those with backgrounds in the computational sciences. Regardless of the track pursued, students are prepared to become professional bioinformaticists upon graduation.

The program is offered on a full- or part-time basis to fulfill the needs of traditional students and those currently employed in the field.

Nature of Work

Bioinformatics Jobs come with several different areas of focus, which are less strictly hierarchical than bioscience discovery research jobs. The analyst/programmer job provides more focused computational analysis support. Analyst/programmers design and develop software, databases, and interfaces used to analyze and manipulate genomic databases. They collaborate with production to develop high-throughput data processing and analysis capability and to design and implement data queries, novel algorithms, and/or visualization techniques. Analyst/programmers also maintain large-scale DNA databases, prepare data for other scientists, monitor new data from integrating sequence-based/ functional knowledge about genes to help scientists analyze and interpret gene-expression data. They also analyze DNA information and identify opportunities for innovative solutions to analyze and manage biological data. In addition, they often assist in developing software and custom scripts to automate data retrieval, manipulation, and analysis; application of statistics; and visualization tools.

(Source: Vault Career Guide to Biotech; The Jobs in Lab Research)

Training/Qualifications

Within the bioinformatics field employers tend to look for the following skills/strengths: fundamental training/knowledge in molecular biology, biochemistry, and biotechnology, particularly, genomics, relational database administration, and programming skills/e.g. using SQL, PERL, C, C++, etc. on a UNIX operating system, strong analytical abilities using relevant mathematical/statistical tools, a strong interest in utilizing computational skills to leverage the data outcomes of those working in the laboratory, meticulous, independent, patient to do the same task repetitively and multitask.

Types of Jobs

Computational Biologist, Gene Analyst, Bioinformatics Software Developer, Research Assistant/Associate, Biologics Database Programmer/Administrator, Computer Analyst/Programmer, and Molecular Modeling Assistant.

Industries

  • Biotech and Life Sciences
  • Medical Devices
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Health Care

Typical Job Titles

  • Senior Analyst/Programmer
  • Associate Systems Analyst
  • Bioinformaticist
  • Bioinformatics Analyst
  • Bioinformatics Engineer
  • Developer
  • Computational Biologist
  • Research Technician
  • Software Engineer

Curriculum

Bioinformatics, MS degree, typical course sequence

First Year

  • BIOL-625 Ethics in Bioinformatics
  • BIOL-630 Bioinformatics Algorithms
  • BIOL-635 Bioinformatics Seminar
  • BIOL-671 Database Management for the Sciences
  • BIOL-694 Molecular Modeling and Proteomics
  • MATH-655 Biostatistics
  • Graduate Electives*

Second Year

  • BIOL-790 Research and Thesis

*Any graduate-level course deemed related to the field of bioinformatics by the program director.

Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission to the MS program in bioinformatics, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Complete a graduate application.
  • Hold a baccalaureate degree (or equivalent) from an accredited university or college in biology, biotechnology, biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, information technology, statistics, or a related discipline.
  • Submit official transcripts (in English) of all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work.
  • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.2 (or equivalent)
  • Submit two letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources.
  • International applicants whose native language is not English must submit scores from the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. A minimum TOEFL score of 79 (internet-based) is required. A minimum IELTS score of 6.5 is required. The English language test score requirement is waived for native speakers of English or for those submitting transcripts from degrees earned at American institutions.
Last updated May 2020

About the School

With more than 80 graduate programs in high-paying, in-demand fields and scholarships, assistantships and fellowships available, we invite you to take a closer look at RIT. Don't be fooled by the word ... Read More

With more than 80 graduate programs in high-paying, in-demand fields and scholarships, assistantships and fellowships available, we invite you to take a closer look at RIT. Don't be fooled by the word "technology" in our name. At RIT, you will discover a university of artists and designers on the one hand, and scientists, engineers, and business leaders on the other – a collision of the right brain and the left brain. Read less