What are bioinformatics and computational biology?

"In our time, and for the foreseeable future, biology data is being collected at an astounding rate. Whether the data is a new DNA sequence from an exotic animal or a 3D-structure of a novel protein, the information is invariably stored in a database—some of which is accessible through the internet. In parallel, there has been a steady development of software tools to analyze this data. For those who wish to perform research in life sciences, it is essential to be aware of the databases and software programs commonly used by scientists. The field that has emerged from this information explosion is called bioinformatics."

"In today’s usage, bioinformatics overlaps with a number of other interdisciplinary subjects including, but not limited to, systems biology, computational biology, and genomics. Although there is nothing in the formal definition of bioinformatics that limits bioinformatics to molecular data, the bioinformatics field expanded rapidly in this direction when the human genome sequence was published in 2001."

"In academia and in the workplace it is generally accepted that those who practice bioinformatics can be placed in one of two camps: users and developers. Users utilize the databases and software programs to answer biological problems. For example, a researcher may want to know if a new drug might have toxic effects on the body. If it is known precisely how the drug binds to its protein target, then one approach is to search for similar regions on other potential protein targets. The programs and databases required to identify similar regions are readily available through the internet. On the other hand, developers create new programs and databases that add to the repertoire of tools that increase our knowledge of molecular life sciences."

The excerpts above are from “Concepts on Bioinformatics and Genomics” (manuscript in preparation).

Successful completion of the requirements for the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Minor at Cal State LA will provide you with a solid repertoire of basic skills and knowledge necessary for you to gain further experience or knowledge in the field, should you desire to do so.

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