Career in Computational Biology, Job Prospects, Skills Required
Computational Biology!! Sounds interesting, isn’t it? But what exactly it is and how is it applicable in the field of life science??
Computational biology is basically the study of physical principles which are the part of biological phenomena and processes. Complex biological processes which are present at an atomistic level can be understood thoroughly by using computational biologies such as by using computational biophysics and the physical principles in it. Some of the most commonly used techniques in this field are Monte Carlo sampling, molecular dynamics simulations, and electrostatic energy calculations. Imagine researching upon the physics and related attributes of proteins and other biomolecules at their atomic level.
Statistics say that this is exceptionally a great time to start a Career in Computational Biology. The reason being that in today’s speeding use of computers there is a gap with this use of computers in the biological field.
This field of computational biology is concerned with solving biomedical and biological problems using mathematical and computational methods. In modern research, they are been perceived as an essential element in research. Due to the spectacular improvement and growth in data collection in the biological fieldlike proteomics, biomedical imaging, and genomics, computational biology has acquired special importance in the past 2 decades. Using the tools from this subject we can build integrated models of biological systems and also device strategies to treat or prevent diseases.
With a degree in computational biology, students can work in the commercial, academic and government domains. Titles like computer and information research scientists or data scientist or data analyst are usually associated with the ones having this background education. Not just in academics but also in industries, computational biology is growing at an impressive rate.
Major players who are working and have a good job prospect are companies like Roche and Merck, Life Technologies, Lockheed Martin, Google, and Microsoft.
An encouraging statement published in the journal Science was stated as, “Today, job prospects within computational biology — also known as bioinformatics — seem strong and appear to be growing, buoyed by pharmaceutical and biotech industries looking to take advantage of reams of genomics data and usher in a new era of drug discovery.”
So, let’s explore the Job prospects / Career in computational biology:
1. Government Domain
In the fields of health and research computational biologist are employed by the government in order to analyze large quantities of data which is available for research in the areas of medicine, genomics, and epidemiology. The qualification for research jobs under the guidance of other employers is commonly a graduate degree in this field or related fields like bioinformatics. While if one is qualified with a Ph.D. degree, they are given more responsibilities along with a higher position. With the advancement and faster growth in this field, there is a reliable good job prospect over the next few years.
2. Computer and Information Research Scientist
In the research and development sector of biotech, pharmaceutical, and scientific software companies, a computational biologist is a very popular job profile. Responsibilities like modeling drug interactions, developing analytical software which the biologists use for big data analysis in biotech companies. As compared to academic research, commercial research concentrates on profits.
Ph.D. candidates in this field have a better scope to prosper and progress in the industry career path. Nevertheless Master’s too have ample opportunities in this field. For example, companies like Biocon, Serum, Lupin, Coca-cola, Reliance, and Tata are some having rewarding positions for Computer and Information Research Scientist.
3.Computational Biology Professor
If one is interested in the field of teaching, then he/she can consider being a computational biologist professor. They are involved in simulations, theoretical and applied research and in making predictions for molecular biological interactions and systems. In the field of genomics and genetics, they are actively involved in analyzing big data. Academically they teach and supervise students and mostly work in the dry laboratory.
In order to obtain a faculty position at a university, a Ph.D. is recommended and in order to become a permanent faculty in a reputed institute, it is mandatory to have a good postdoc experience.
So, all in all, there are three broad areas i.e. Industry, Academia, and Government domain has a very high and attractive job profiles for the students having the background of Computational biology.
Some of the common job titles in the field of computational biology are:
1. Software & Instrumentation Test Engineer
2. Research Scientist
3. Bioinformatics Scientist
4. Senior Research Associate
Sector / Industries in which positions for computational biology is popularly available all time:
1. Medical device and equipment
2. Research and testing
3. Agricultural chemicals
5. National Institutes of Health
Required Skills for computational biology jobs / Career in Computational Biology:
1. Programming and software: Python, Galaxy, Bash, MATLAB, Perl, Java, R, C, C++
Statistics: R is a very common tool used in today’s time
2. Bioinformatics Tools: Bio-edit, T-coffee sequence analysis algorithms, Blast, Clustalw, BLAT
3. Bioinformatics Resources and Database Skills: SwissProt, MySQL, SRS Database, UCSC genome browser, NCBI, UniProt, Entrez.
4. Sub-domain software (toolkits): Argus, Oracle, ChemmineR, Indigo, Scaffold, Enalos, ProtMAX (Proteomics), PerlMol, AutoDock, SwissDock (Molecular Docking & Drug Discovery), OEChem (Cheminformatics)
5. Data Mining
6. Data Visualization
7. Understanding the basis of life science. Example: Molecular biology, Genetic biology.
8. Soft Skills: Flexibility, Patience, Communication, Teamwork.
Required Education for making a Career in Computational Biology
- In the career path of this field, you can either take bioscience or any other branch of life science or computer science and engineering at the undergrad level.
- One must be fluent in understanding life science terminology of genetics, genomics, and cellular biology. Along with this, biologists must also take up skills in data analysis, including statistics, programming, and logic.
- At your 10+2 level, the combination of subjects that will benefit you will be Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Maths or Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Computer Science.
- In the master’s it will be ideal to take up specialization in either of the following fields: Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Applied Statistics, Bio-Statistics, Epidemiology, Computational Biology, and Bioinformatics.
Job prospects in computational biology have been steadily increasing with the amalgamation of information technology in various fields of life science like cell biology, molecular biology, genetic engineering, etc. Sectors like hospitals, research institutes, biomedical science, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical industry are some of the areas where you can apply for jobs in computational biology. Some of the areas of bioinformatics like Clinical pharmacologist, Bio-analytics and Analytics, Proteomics, Pharmacogenomics, Pharmacology, Sequence analysis, Sequence assembly, Database design and maintenance, Computational chemistry and Informatics developer are the areas where computational biologist can work.
As compared to pure life science, computational biology has better job prospects and salaries. One can use their life science degree and add some computational biology skills so as to polish their profile and increase their likelihood to get better jobs. Latest technologies like Next-generation sequencing, CRISPR, scRNA-seq, CITE-seq, CROP-seq, etc. can also help in increasing your chances you get into good biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.
The perk of Career in Computational Biology is that with the help of your skills and knowledge you can be very creative and contribute in the field of medical science. The salary too is quite large hence making the work worthwhile. The computational biologist scientist also gets to travel the world for his/her work, thus making this field more attractive. An immense amount of self-satisfaction is gained from the work that you do in this field. The downfall in this field is that very long working hours are required in this job and sometimes many years are also required to advance to the higher positions in this career path. Looking at perks and downfalls associated with this field, one needs to carve their career properly before stepping on this career path.
Thankfully, India is one of the main bioinformatics hubs in the world and cities like Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi and Chennai are the best cities having an immense amount of opportunities in this field. In the world specifically, Washington D.C in the USA is prospering in computational biology domain.
Thus, overall computational biology is a very interesting field which one can choose in today’s time for exploring and prospering in the field of life science as well as informational technology.
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