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1456Is bioinformatics a "better"
PhD? (self.bioinformatics)submitted 5
months ago by deckardkSo I've been having pretty long
discussions with my parents (my dad received his PhD in the 70's
for polymer chemistry) about going into graduate school - I've
applied to and got accepted into a couple programs that I really would
like to attend. They are saying this isn't the right time to
pursue a PhD in general, due to limited career opportunities,
instability of biotech companies, and lack of funding in academia. Now
would I agree with this if we were talking about me doing something
like straight biochemistry, but does pursuing bioinformatics provide
me with something better?

26 commentssharecancelall 26 commentssorted
by: bestbesttopnewhotcontroversialold[+]neurobry 4 points5
points6 points 5 months ago  (8
children)[–]neurobry 4 points5 points6 points 5
months agoYou should decide what you want to do in a career first.
A PhD is mandatory if you want to work in academia or in a research
institution. If you want to work in a company, you can probably get
sufficient direct job experience/seniority just by working for the 5-6
years it would take to get the PhD.

A middle ground would be to get a masters, which would give you a leg
up on those with bachelor degrees but wouldn't require as much
time as a phd.

Bioinformatic graduates, particularly those with NGS experience and
robust programming knowledge, are currently in high demand, much more
so than those with (for example) molecular biology. I speak here from
experience. :P

permalink[+]troglobit 1 point2 points3 points 5 months ago
 (0 children)[–]troglobit 1 point2 points3 points 5
months agoI agree with this comment. What are your career goals?
To make a good salary, or to become a academic researcher? In general,
these two (salary and academia) are not positively correlated. If you
want job stability, PhD might be better in the long run, considering
the coming flood of bioinformatics-related masters or certificate
graduates.  

Now to answer your question specifically. IMO, a PhD in bioinformatics
is "better" than most because there is demand for it. 
However, a PhD in general is something you should consider with
significant thought in advance. Make sure you have a good project and
good supervisor. 5-6 years is a long time, and the research you
conduct during your PhD will define your career path to a large
extent.

permalinkparent[+]bifxanon 0 points1 point2 points 5
months ago  (5 children)[–]bifxanon 0 points1
point2 points 5 months agoI'm one such person with 4 years
of NGS experience AND robust programming knowledge.  Who's hiring?

permalinkparent[+]neurobry 0 points1 point2 points 5
months ago  (2 children)[–]neurobry 0 points1
point2 points 5 months agoSanger, Broad, bioinformatics.fr,
bioinformatics.org, lots of NGS/bioinformatics places on linkedin. I
just read that they're opening up 23 new jobs in a new plant
genomics center at the university of adelaide in austrailia, and
there's TONS of jobs available in asia.

I'm constantly seeing positions open, so I dunno where you're
looking.

permalinkparent[+]bifxanon 0 points1 point2 points 5
months ago  (1 child)[–]bifxanon 0 points1 point2
points 5 months agoI guess that's what I was trying to get
at.  I know of bioinformatics.org,  and genomeweb, but after that I
start going to places like dice, monster, careers.stackoverflow.com
(very rare to see bifx jobs there, but the ones that are tend to be
high quality).  Any tips on using linkedin to find work other than
stalking connections connections' ?

Cheers!

permalinkparent[+]neurobry 0 points1 point2 points 5
months ago  (0 children)[–]neurobry 0 points1
point2 points 5 months agoI joined a bunch of different
groups. I sent you a PM with my linked in profile - feel free to check
out my groups and to add me as a contact. Most of the groups tend to
have 3-10 jobs announced at any one point in time...

permalinkparent[+]chrisamiller 0 points1 point2 points 5
months ago  (0 children)[–]chrisamiller 0 points1
point2 points 5 months agoShit - who isn't?  Come work
with us: 
http://massgenomics.org/2012/04/grants-and-jobs-at-the-genome-institute.html

permalinkparent[+]deckardk[S] 0 points1 point2 points 5
months ago  (0 children)[–]deckardk[S] 0 points1
point2 points 5 months agoI originally was looking for an
industry position, but have left my doors open for academia/post-grad
research. I did apply to a couple master's programs, but ended up
being accepted into PhD programs and also don't have the money to
fund a master's at the moment. 

Much of the reason for me wanting to pursue an advanced degree is
because I majored in biochemistry/molecular biology and minored in
statistics, only dabbling in programming on my free time. I did
consider just finding a job and getting some real life programming
experience, which definitely is still something I can do at this
moment.

permalinkparent[+]b00mIR 2 points3 points4 points 5
months ago  (3 children)[–]b00mIR 2 points3 points4
points 5 months agoMy supervisor commented the other day that
anyone who can write even 5 lines of code has a major advantage in
getting a job these days, his own son (of 12) has been going to free
programming classes for kids (on his own accord, not his dads idea).
Seems like have any programming experience will be useful in any field
in the future, have a sound knowledge of programming and biology can
only help this. Imagine what having a PhD in bioinformatics says about
your adaptability and skill base to a potential employer.

Seems like the soundest route to go for (when pursuing a PhD),
although this subreddit is probably biased :D

permalink[+][deleted] 5 months ago  (2
children)[–][deleted] 5 months ago[deleted]

permalinkparent[+]bluehen 2 points3 points4 points 5
months ago  (0 children)[–]bluehen 2 points3
points4 points 5 months agoYou really think so? I'm doing
a PhD in computational biology, but worked primarily in a biology
department as an undergrad, and most biologists I knew had little to
know knowledge of coding. There were plenty of brilliant biologists
with great research  that just didn't have those skills, which is
why I think this is such a good field to get into right now.

permalinkparent[+]neurobry 1 point2 points3 points 5
months ago  (0 children)[–]neurobry 1 point2
points3 points 5 months agoIt depends on the research that is
being done in the department. If the focus in sequencing, genomics,
transcriptomics, etc, then yeah, everyone is going to have a bit of
programming knowledge by necessity. But if you're doing protein
analysis, it's just not a necessary skill.

permalinkparent[+]beebhead 2 points3 points4 points 5
months ago  (4 children)[–]beebhead 2 points3
points4 points 5 months agoUh this is the time to spend 5+
years in grad school-- the job market will've recovered by the
time you're done. And bioinformatics is in extremely high demand
right now. 

permalink[+][deleted] 5 months ago  (3
children)[–][deleted] 5 months ago[deleted]

permalinkparent[+]beebhead 2 points3 points4 points 5
months ago  (2 children)[–]beebhead 2 points3
points4 points 5 months agoThe latter is not a huge
assumption. As someone who just finished grad school and got a job I
can tell you first hand that bioinformaticists are in high demand,
especially those with deep sequencing analysis experience. I am
assuming that the market will have recovered in five years, yes, but
we know for a fact that the market is down now so it's not a bad
time to be in school. 

permalinkparent[+]deckardk[S] 0 points1 point2 points 5
months ago  (0 children)[–]deckardk[S] 0 points1
point2 points 5 months agoThis definitely was one of my
arguments to do the PhD. Hopefully it comes true.

permalinkparent[+]ntlaxboy 0 points1 point2 points 5
months ago  (0 children)[–]ntlaxboy 0 points1
point2 points 5 months agoi agree with this statement, there
are way more positions than well-qualified people who can fill them
IMHO

permalinkparent[+][deleted] 2 points3 points4 points 5
months ago  (2 children)[–][deleted] 2 points3
points4 points 5 months agoIMHO, a PhD in bioinformatics gives
you more opportunities later on.

When you're done, in the worst case scenario you'll still have
a solid understanding of coding, which should enable you to go into
the "normal" software-industry - if you have experience in
working with big data, all the better, I think this is a thing
that's going to be really big in the web-industry in the next
couple of years. I know a bioinformatics-PhD who now works for a games
company.

Also, in my experience, a bioinformatics-PhD is faster than the usual
biology-PhD - I know microbiology-PhD-students who wasted a year or
two just trying to find a way to purify their protein of interest,
which is good for only one or two papers. In the same workgroup
it's not unheard of that the students stopped receiving payment
when they didn't produce results in the first half year - which is
very unfair when I think of the black magic that is protein
purification.

When I started in bioinformatics I already had all the data I ever
might need for my PhD (this depends on your group I guess). 

This makes for a quick PhD - my workgroup (Australia, btw) has a
minimum amount of 10 published papers to be able to finish your PhD
and we had one student who managed to do that in two years. It'll
take me probably three.

permalink[+]deckardk[S] 1 point2 points3 points 5
months ago  (1 child)[–]deckardk[S] 1 point2
points3 points 5 months agoDefinitely agree about the
"normal software industry" part, I've been hearing that
the big software companies, especially Google, are hiring
bioinformatics graduates because of that ability to handle big data.

Would you say that bioinformatics grad programs are more technical
than theoretical? That's another worry that my parents have - I
would be limiting myself to research circles in the "ivory
tower" where only scientists reside.

permalinkparent[+][deleted] 1 point2 points3 points 5
months ago* (0 children)[–][deleted] 1 point2
points3 points 5 months ago*
Would you say that bioinformatics grad programs are more technical
than theoretical?


Depends entirely on the group you choose. Mine is mostly in
"applied bioinformatics", so we use programs that other
people produce and rarely make our own. We still code parsers and
datastructures, but we've never really published any big program
or suite. We also do very little theoretical work, mostly genome
assembly.

On the other hand, I've seen workgroups that focus entirely on the
mathematics behind evolution and other theoretical biology, and as
such, write programs based on their mathematical models of evolution
(edit: or based on how certain kinds of viruses spread in a
population). They do very little big data. I guess these people fit
less in the normal software industry :)   

tl;dr: Depends which group you choose, ask the prof before you join.

permalinkparent[+]skrenename4147 1 point2 points3 points 5
months ago  (2 children)[–]skrenename4147 1 point2
points3 points 5 months agoI certainly hope so, since I'm
pursuing one starting this fall! ><"

permalink[+]deckardk[S] 0 points1 point2 points 5
months ago  (1 child)[–]deckardk[S] 0 points1
point2 points 5 months agoCongrats man! If you don't mind
me asking where are you doing it? UCSD accepted me for their
Bioinfo/Sys Bio program which I am reaaaallly excited about.

permalinkparent[+]skrenename4147 1 point2 points3 points 5
months ago  (0 children)[–]skrenename4147 1 point2
points3 points 5 months agoXD not at all, congrats to you too!
I'm starting at USC's Computational Biology and Bioinformatics
program in the fall, but working with a faculty member there this
summer, so not too far away!

permalinkparent[+]osazuwa 1 point2 points3 points 5
months ago  (1 child)[–]osazuwa 1 point2 points3
points 5 months agoI'm a PhD student in statistics
focusing on comp bio.  A quantitative PhD is definitely in
high-demand, given the modern day data tsunami.  But make sure you
come out of there knowing how to code.  

You can look up average salaries for different fields.  Personally, I
found average salaries in bioinformatics to be lower than I'd
like, but I worked in industry a few years prior to PhD, so I have a
broader basis of comparison than your average student.

permalink[+][deleted] 1 point2 points3 points 5 months ago
 (0 children)[–][deleted] 1 point2 points3 points 5
months agoHere's a list of salaries from the
bioinformatics-industry:

http://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/bioinformatics-salary-SRCH_KO0,14.htm

Looks like the salaries range from USD 60.000 to 100.000. There's
one massive outlier in there (Executive Director Bioinformatics,
200.000) but I'd say you're safe with assuming 60.000/year in
academia and 80-90.000 in the industry.

permalinkparent[+]ntlaxboy 1 point2 points3 points 5
months ago  (1 child)[–]ntlaxboy 1 point2 points3
points 5
months agohttp://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2012_04_13/caredit.a1200041
seems like theres a decent demand for bioinformatics

permalink[+]deckardk[S] 0 points1 point2 points 5
months ago  (0 children)[–]deckardk[S] 0 points1
point2 points 5 months agoGreat article. Thanks!

permalinkparent[+]irishcocacola 1 point2 points3 points 5
months ago  (0 children)[–]irishcocacola 1 point2
points3 points 5 months agoI'm applying for PhD program in
the fall. Bioinformatics seems like a good field right now and will
hopefully grow. If it doesn't the skills you learn doing
bioinformatics (databases, programming, biology) are very useful and
applicable elsewhere. So even if you don't wind up doing
bioinformatics I think its a skillset that you can use to get jobs in
other fields if need be.

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