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Monday, May 23, 2011

Preparing for a Genomics Career

Do you know what type of education and training take you to be a genomics researcher or academician? Like in most of the cases, there is not one "best pathway" to a career in genomics. People with diverse academic and geographical backgrounds have made choices that have lead them to their current careers in genomics. Furthermore, there are many very successful biologists who do not utilize genomic methods and there will always be a need for bench scientists who know how to perform well controlled experiments using more traditional methods.

Nevertheless, if you are attracted to a career in the broad field of genomics, then there are some things you can do to better prepare yourself. First, as an undergraduate, make sure you take a range of sciences and math, not just biology. The types of math courses that will be especially helpful include probability and statistics, linear algebra, and a programming language such as C++ or perl. Physics is helpful since physical properties govern all aspects of biological activities. Chemistry will prove advantageous since chemical reactions drive biological systems and genomic methods. Of course, biology classes will prove useful with genetics, molecular biology and cell biology toping the list, though a firm understanding of evolution will be advantageous as well.

Make sure you get hands-on experiences. Work in a laboratory or in the field with someone at your school who is conducting research. Get a summer research job either on your home campus or at other institutions. Research experiences will be advantageous in any job search regardless of which aspect of genomics you choose.

Finally, what kind of skills do you need? Again, there are many skills needed to perform genomics. Useful skills include computer programming, bench laboratory skills, engineering expertise, and chemical synthesis. The more you know the better off you’ll be in a rapidly changing work environment. But more than just technical skills, you will need to have some other abilities such as an ability to communicate in written and oral formats.

The field of genomics was officially launched in 1995 when the first completed genome was published. Since genomics is a new field, no one can predict where it will go in the future, though it does look as if the future will be filled with new discoveries that affect everyone.

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