Researchers use many methods to collect, analyze and understand biological data.For instance, scientists candidate genes, nucleotides and other genetic information with an aim of understanding unique adaptations, genetic basis of diseases, desirable properties in agricultural species or variations between populations. To achieve this, they use an integration of computers, databases, software tools and electronic hardware and thisuse of computer technology to solve biological problems is known as bioinformatics. (Joanne Fox, 2006)
Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary area of study in whichlarge amounts of biological data are collected and therefore biological knowledge is needed in order to utilize this discipline optimally. This information is collected with the goal of gleaning information about some specific or general biological process and computers are used to do the collection, processing and storage of the data (Stamford University, 2011). Prospective Bioinformatics practitioners need to possess specific basic skills in order to fully and successfully venture into the field. One should be able to conduct sequencing of an organism’s DNA. The nucleotide sequence in a strand of DNA is the foundation of an organism’sphysiology and when it is done and the information ordered accordingly, knowledge based computer applications can be developed and used in dedicated systems. (Stamford University, 2011)
Bioinformatics in Computer Science
In institutions of higher learning, this area involves the theory and development of computational tools to solve problems in the area of biological sciences. This area gives an individual the understanding of both biological and computational sciences. Biological scientists are equipped with statistical and algorithm construction skills, while computer scientists are equipped with working knowledge of the biology and chemistry that is required to be effective in the field. Since this topic is interdisciplinary, most academic institutions offer it using multiple departments, mostly the biology, chemistry and computer science departments. They have to work jointly, bringing together experts from the different disciplines to successfully implement bioinformatics as a discipline.(Pittsburg University, 2013 )
Challenges in Bioinformatics
Challenges that are common in this field include cost and complexity. Sequencing biological data of a species is expensive.Adina Mangubat states that in 2009, 100,000 US dollars was used to sequence a single human being and the process took 30 days. The cost is steadily going down and is currently at 3000 US dollars. However, considering the number of species in existence, this is evidently expensive. The cost of storage of a single human’s sequence is high because, 200 gigabytes are required. One terabyte of storage therefore can only store sequences of 5 humans. Such a colossal amounts of data also requires robust computer applications for processing it into useful information. Such applications also turn out to be highly expensive to build. Therefore, the main challenges that face this discipline is the ever increasing amount of required storage space and the operational costs. (Adina Mangubat, 2013)
The topic of Bioinformatics is as exciting as it is wide andit gives a new area of focus for Computer science.Computer Science enthusiasts are already familiar with computer applications development and knowledge based systems. With Bioinformatics, they get an opportunity to interactand collaborate with specialists in other disciplines like Biology to collect biological data, then come back and develop systems that are useful to people from various disciplines including Medicine.
“Bioinformatics.” Department of Computer Science. 1 Feb. 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <http://www.cs.pitt.edu/undergrad/bioinformatics/>.
FOX, JJOANNE. “SCQ.” SCQ. 4 Aug. 2006. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <http://www.scq.ubc.ca/what-is-bioinformatics/>.
Mangubat, Adina. “New Challenges in the Fast Changing Landscape of Bioinformatics.” Biotech Now. 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <http://www.biotech-now.org/health/2013/04/new-challenges-in-the-fast-changing-landscape-of-bioinformatics#>.
“Pathway Modeling: The Steps after Sequencing.” Ecs-eagle. 21 Feb. 2011. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <http://ecseagle.wordpress.com/how-does-bioinformatics-work/pathway-modeling-the-steps-after-sequencing/>.