How To Become a Computational Biologist

Computational Biology is an emerging popular concentration in science wherein experts try to make our understanding of the biological procedures simpler and more useful, with the use of computers and mathematics. It is an interdisciplinary area in research, as it requires knowledge of biology, mathematics, computer science, physics, and other related subjects.

Most of the research that has been done in this field centers around understanding DNA and genome sequencing. Substantial advancements have been made in treating human diseases and understanding the genetic make-up of human beings, especially in bioinformatics, a branch of computational biology. Interested now? Here's how you can become a computational biologist.

  • Start early. In high school, take as many subjects in biology and computer technology as possible, but also be diverse. The field of computational biology is steadily evolving, so other sciences may also help you in your career someday.
  • Read journals about the subject. It's good to have a substantial knowledge of the concepts involved early on, so you will know where to focus once you get to college.
  • Choose an undergraduate degree in biology or mathematics. You can take subjects in education, too, because you might end up working for a university where you'll have to teach while conducting your research. Statistics and physics are also courses to consider.

When computational biology was just starting, many of its experts had a combination of undergraduate and graduate degrees in computer science and biology under their belts. If you have this kind of background, then good for you. But if you only have formal education in one of them, then you'd better get some extensive training for the other.

If you can get into a program which offers a specialized course in computational biology, then take it! Since the field is relatively new, only a few institutions provide this kind of program and you'll be lucky to get into one; so prep up your research work to qualify for it.

  • Develop your communication skills. Being a computational biologist means you'll be dealing mainly with two kinds of experts - biologists and computer programmers. As such, you must be able to interact well with both and in clear, concise language that all of you will understand.

When exploring your job options, be aware that computational biologists who work in private companies get higher salaries that those who work for the government. Medical centers for research, universities and colleges, and pharmaceutical companies are just some of your options. Consider the resources of the company you're applying for, and whether the company will allow you to pursue your area of research interest or not.

If you want to work on a particular project, try to avail yourself of a research grant to help you with the expenses. You must have a good project proposal for this. If you finish your research, then get it published in journals right away.

  • Attend conferences.  Try to attend conferences on computational biology, so you'll be able to keep abreast of the developments in the field. If you find fellow computational biologists who are interested in the same specialization, you may also want to form an organization, or choose one, which has been formed for the purpose. The topmost thing to keep in mind is that you must continually equip yourself with the knowledge required to keep up with this field's fast-paced evolution.


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