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Job Field - Bioinformatist

by tritan (Sexton)
on Jan 22, 2010 at 03:47 UTC ( #818878=perlmeditation: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

Hi again all. First off, thank you to everyone who has replied to my previous perl & bioinformatics thread. Your responses have been very helpful! I hope this is okay, but I have a followup question that is not so much perl oriented. I was wondering if people could give me insight into the various long-term jobs and fields that one can pursue with a PhD in bioinformatics (and for the sake of this discussion board, with a good background in perl? ; ))?

My current understanding of programming and biology related fields is primarily in academia. This is what I've been surrounded by most since college. However, that job track does not seem to be the most motivating to me right now. Work in a lab, do a post doc, and then start your own lab. For some reason, it seems like a lot of pressure too soon -- I'd like a little more experience before I'm suddenly bestowed an entire lab to myself! However, it seems like that path is also the most stable, compared to other options. Post-doc'ing has a limited time frame. And the bioinformatic programmers I know are hired for specific projects, which may last three or four years. After that, they're probably going to have to find new jobs, elsewhere.

So aside from industry (which I'm trying to avoid), are there stable, worthwhile career tracks in bioinformatics? Where you can do really cool research, help develop methodology and get your programming on, all the while actually building a career and resume beyond 3 / 4 year stints? I may be really unaware of things, because I am coming off of doing a B.S. primarily in Biology. I only took one or so courses in real, hardcore programming, and never got any advice or information about this field from professors while I was still at school. All I asked at the time was 'what should I learn' language wise. Now, I'm out of school, and with a lot more questions! So thank you to anyone who responds. Any thoughts or comments are going to be very much appreciated.

Thanks all

~Tritan

Comment on Job Field - Bioinformatist
Re: Job Field - Bioinformatist
by educated_foo (Vicar) on Jan 22, 2010 at 04:53 UTC
    I'm currently in a similar position (PhD in bioinformatics-related field, leery of industry), though from the programming side. You might look at a European postdoc, which would last for the lifetime of a project (3+ years). If that doesn't appeal to you, then your options are probably academia, industry, Wall Street, or a completely new career. Good luck...
Re: Job Field - Bioinformatist
by bobf (Monsignor) on Jan 22, 2010 at 05:44 UTC

    Work in a lab, do a post doc, and then start your own lab.

    That is the traditional career path in academia, but that is not the only one. There are many alternative roles that you can play other than PI (especially in a field that is evolving so rapidly), including those that are entirely collaborative or supportive in nature.

    For some reason, it seems like a lot of pressure too soon -- I'd like a little more experience before I'm suddenly bestowed an entire lab to myself!
    Earning a PhD and completing a postdoc does not mean you will end up with your own lab. You must work very hard to get funding (and lots of it) before an institution will give you the opportunity to start your own lab. That means it is entirely in your control. If you don't want to run an independent lab, don't apply for the funding to do it.

    Post-doc'ing has a limited time frame. ... Where you can do really cool research, help develop methodology and get your programming on, all the while actually building a career and resume beyond 3 / 4 year stints?
    Academic postdocs are intended to be short-term positions that fill out your CV in specific areas, chosen based on the direction you would like your career to go. Drill down into a specialized area of research, or develop some statistical/analytical expertise, or expand your programming skills... it is up to you. In academia, these 3-4 year stints are not only accepted, they are encouraged. In fact, staying in one place "too long" during that stage of your career can be a negative; future employers want to see a breadth of experience at a variety of institutions.

    I may be really unaware of things, because I am coming off of doing a B.S. primarily in Biology.
    This may sound cliche, but you still have plenty of time to figure out what you want to do with your life. :-) Take a little time, work towards a masters, and see where it takes you. It is surprising how much one changes and matures (academically) in the first two years of grad school.

Re: Job Field - Bioinformatist
by BioLion (Curate) on Jan 22, 2010 at 18:44 UTC

    I agree with what the others have said, but I wanted to add that maybe, if industry is out of the picture and the post-doc padder doesn't appeal, then you could look at support roles.

    Many institutes (even groups) have dedicated bioinfo departments or sub-groups, which are really involved with the science and offer great opportunities to get on papers etc... but also provide a great opportunity to learn new skills, especially if you have a good background in biology - many groups prefer to teach biologists computers, rather than CS people biology...

    Related to this is hospital / medical genomics work... maybe a bit "conveyor belt" for you!?

    Overall I would say look for genomics work, and if you can retain you biology skills, that will only make you more desirable (in the employment sense, I am yet to meet a girl impressed by my PCR / perl skills...)

    I don't know what other people think, but htis is at least my impression and the sort of thing I am going for. SO in fact don't do this, I could do without the competition.

    Just a something something...

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