What Is It?
Bioinformatics is the use of computer science, statistics, and information technology to create tools to process and analyze biological data. Computational biology is the advancement of understanding of living systems through computation.
In practice, the two fields overlap, and the two terms are often used interchangeably. The skills of both are used by researchers who want to be able to develop their own tools and methods to explore and process data in the service of new discoveries; analysts who process data for others; and software engineers who write the software that researchers and analysts use.
At Illinois Tech, the bioinformatics major blends courses in biology, chemistry, and physics with courses in programming, statistics, and other methods, producing graduates who are both strong in science, and strong in the ability to develop and use tools to process data to advance knowledge of science.
Our program is scientifically rigorous, particularly in the physical sciences, while providing students with in-demand programming and other skills. It features a solid, balanced offering in STEM courses, while other programs may be more biased in one direction (biology) or the other (computer science).
Courses include programming in Perl, C++ and Java; data structure and algorithms; data mining; statistics; human biology; genetics; genomics and transcriptomics; and more. See below.
Students can choose from two tracks:
- Applied Bioinformatics has more required and elective courses in computer science.
- Computational Biology has more required and elective courses in biology.
Most bioinformatics positions require an advanced degree. The Illinois Tech major helps to prepare students for graduate school as well as for entry-level technical positions.
- B.S. in Bioinformatics
- Minor in Bioinformatics
- Co-terminal degree in Biology (B.S.) and Computer Science (M.S.)
Bioinformatics emerged back in the 1970s. The processing of biological data has of course become increasingly important with the growth of huge datasets, such as DNA data. As we move to the era of personalized genomics for medical purposes, the amount of data to analyze will be staggering. For example, sequencing the genomes of all Americans would generate exabytes of data.
Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide information on the outlook for people in bioinformatics, it forecasts a 14 percent annual growth for computer and information research scientists from 2014-2024, and $111,840 median pay in 2016.
Grand View Research in San Francisco says the global computational biology market will be worth $4.2 billion by 2020, driven by growth in programs to sequence genomes to better understand biological systems, and clinical studies in pharmacogenomics and pharmacokinetics for novel drug discovery studies.
Our program strengths:
- Courses from biology, applied mathematics, and computer science departments
- Strong science and technology fundamentals
- Research opportunities for select students
- Program head Jean-François Pombert, assistant professor of biology, whose expertise includes comparative genomics, computational biology/bioinformatics, and high-throughput DNA sequencing.
- Illinois Tech’s traditional strengths in technology and new Center for Interdisciplinary Scientific Computing (CISC)
- ISCB – International Society for Computational Biology https://www.iscb.org/
- AMIA – American Medical Informatics Association https://www.amia.org/
Jean-Francois Pombert, Ph.D.
Department of Biology
Illinois Institute of Technology