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Bioinformatics is a cross-disciplinary field at the interface between biology, computer science and mathematics. This discipline is often referred to as bioinformatics or computational biology depending of the corresponding focus. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines bioinformatics as the development of algorithms and software tools to help answer biological questions and computational biology as the expert use of computational tools to answer these biological questions. When applied to human health, bioinformatics is sometimes referred to as medical informatics.

In a nutshell, bioinformatics is used to make sense of the vast amount of biological data collected in various endeavors. Skills required to do well in the field include programming literacy, a working knowledge of biology (especially DNA, RNA and proteins), and a good understanding of mathematics and statistics. Bioinformaticians are often required to know at least one scripting language (e.g., Perl or Python), one compiled and/or object-oriented (e.g., C++ or Java) programming language, and one mathematical language (e.g., R or MATLAB). Proficiency with Structured Query Language (SQL) computer databases is also a plus. Because of the need to reduce vast amounts of data in a digestible format, skills in design also come in handy to produce easy to understand figures and datasheets.

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