Bioinformatics involves the collection and analysis of biological data, especially genomic data, using information technology. Its purpose is to expand the understanding of biological processes, particularly in relation to advances in healthcare. Some schools treat bioinformatics as an interdisciplinary graduate level program, whereas other schools link bioinformatics with biology and biotechnology degree programs, computational biology, or with studies in genomics.
Laboratory work is an important component of most bioinformatics courses, and some degree programs may include a research rotation, team project, and/or internship opportunities. PhD studies require research and a dissertation, and may also require students to teach.
During bioinformatics courses, students may enhance their knowledge about the following topics:
- Bioinformatics legal concerns
- Statistical formulas and data collection
- Cellular biology, biochemistry, and molecular genetics
- Data mining and modeling
List of Common Courses
Introductory Topics in Bioinformatics Course
This course introduces students to the general tenets of the field, usually focusing on macromolecular structure data as a means of studying fundamental principles. These include the representation, classification, comparison and visualization of data, as well as information processing, string algorithms and generative models for sequences. Other topics at this level can include reductionism and biological inference.
Intermediate Bioinformatics Course
The intermediate level of this subject introduces bioinformatics algorithms and advanced genome informatics. The course focuses on sequence analysis, sequence-structure analysis and advanced sequence models. Students learn to apply the methods learned in this course to genome and proteome sequences. Gene expression analysis is also introduced in this level along with an exploration of protein structure, molecular phylogeny (evolutionary history), DNA motifs and gene annotation, though this last subject is sometimes reserved for the advanced levels.
Advanced Bioinformatics Course
In addition to detailed instruction on annotating genes, advanced bioinformatics is chiefly concerned with network biology and the informatics of genomes and proteomes. This course expands on the fundamentals of structural genomics and includes structure determination, refinement and modeling. The structures of protein surfaces and cores, as well as the architecture of RNA and DNA, are examined using algorithmic and statistical methods. Students learn about structure prediction, disorder and protein function and localization. Some curricula may include profiling, reconstruction pathways and the characterization of genes.
This is the standard study of genomics, usually taking a single semester. Including many of the subjects described previously, the course focus is usually on the tools, techniques and technology of genomics. Students learn the theory behind genetic sequencing and gene mapping as well as the practical skills required to complete the analysis. The curriculum here usually includes a detailed exploration of genome assembly, annotation, comparison and evolution, along with gene ontologies, data acquisition and proteomics. Laboratory work is a major component of genomics studies.