Today, biology is moving at a breakneck pace. Over the last 20 years, computational methods have become a well-established part of biology. This has been made possible largely due to spectacular advances in high throughput data collection in the fields of genomics, proteomics, and biomedical imaging – which are all part of the broad field of computational biology.
Computational Biology Careers and Jobs
Overview, Career Scopes, Required Qualifications & Skills, Top Colleges, Jobs, and Salaries
Co-authored by Parinita Gupta
What is Computational Biology?
Computational biology is basically the study of physical principles that are part of biological phenomena and processes. Complex biological processes that are present at an atomistic level can be understood thoroughly by using computational biologies such as by using computational biophysics and the physical principles in it.
Modern Biology makes wide use of biological databases to try to tackle many different challenges such as understanding the treatment for diseases and cellular function. Datasets of biological data can be created from amino-acid sequences, nucleotides, macromolecular structures and so on. Recent advancements in technology are also enabling us to store an incredible amount of data.
The field of computational biology studies molecules, cells, tissues, organs, their phenotype or behavior of genes and nucleic acid or peptide sequence under certain situations. Though many still think that Bioinformatics and Computational Biology are the same, however, the latter is a much broader discipline and includes theories, algorithms, robotics and machine learning, and many other data metric procedures to get to conclusions.
The basic factor in shaping the field of computational biology is that the DNA, RNA, and proteins are mainly responsible for storing and also utilizing the genetic material in any organism, and can be modeled as strings over finite alphabets.
This string representation of biomolecules enables a wide range of algorithmic applied for analyzing and to compare biological data. Thus researchers contribute to the field of computational biology through constructing and analyzing algorithms that in turn address the problems of relevance to the analyses of biological sequence and structural prediction.
Importance of Computational Biology
Since statistical analysis requires a huge set of data for sampling, similarly this particular discipline of bioinformatics will only become less and less foolproof once it has amassed enough amount of data regarding health conditions and concerned diseases. Because every big player in the analytics field toys with a huge pool of data and does calculations and predictive analysis based on that, big data analytics is one field that is going to be in huge demand in the near future.
It is one of those disciplines that employ big data to perform all kinds of possible surveys and research that would aid in the overall improvement of public health as also provide newer career options to the emerging sector of professionals who are well versed in both the languages of computational analytics as well as healthcare.
What Problem Does Computational Biology Solve?
History of Computational Biology
The origin of this science dates back to the British logician and mathematician Alan Turing, also known as the father of computing, who first used computers to implement a model on biological morphogenesis, just before his death in the early 1950s. At the same time, another invention created MANIAC, a computer for modeling hypothesized genetic codes. By the 1960s, computers were able to extend their computational measures to phylogenetics mainly used by taxonomists, protein crystallography, DNA sequences, and chromosomes. By studying Computational Biology, one can master algorithm, computational management, statistical and biological processes.
Career Prospects of Computational Biology
With a degree in computational biology, students can work in the commercial, academic and government domains. Titles like computer and information research scientists or data scientist or data analyst are usually associated with the ones having this background education. Not just in academics but also in industries, computational biology is growing at an impressive rate.
Major players in computation and medicine have invested heavily in computational biology, including Google, Microsoft, Life Technologies, Lockheed Martin, Roche, and Merck. This field has garnered much interest from venture capital and economy watchers.
Demand and Career Scopes of Computational Biology in India
In places like India and other third world countries, the mortality rate is extremely high. This is because of the absence of proper healthcare facilities which even prompt patients to expire from not so complicated diseases. But most importantly, due to the absence of a proper network of computational biology and informatics, it is even more difficult to predict the cause and the nature of the ailments and provide the necessary treatment accordingly.
Computational biology is thus a growing sector with the promise of minimizing the high cost associated with healthcare, while simultaneously providing higher opportunities for predictive analysis of diseases, proper foolproof diagnostics, greater efficiency of providing treatment and also better effective aftercare. All of these can be achieved at a lower cost than what could have been the case if all these functions were executed separately.
Computational biology, thus, can be touted as a huge field which encompasses various disciplines like :-
- Information technology
- Computer science
- Information science
- Social and behavioral science
- Management studies; and the like:
The operations that are of primary concerns in the case of computational biology involve the following:
- Dealing with real-time data sources and not archaic records. Does not depend upon historical evidence but on practical cases that are occurring currently
- Dealing with various devices that are involved in the encapsulation of real-time data
- Optimizing the accretion or possession of bio-medicine as well as their storage, retrieval, and use of all pertinent information in this concern
- Health informatics tools form a part of computational biology which is instrumental in the functionalities of computers, clinical guidelines as well as information and communication systems to capture real-time data and examine them.
Applications of Computational Biology in Medicine
Computational biology is applicable to various sectors of health and medical sciences.
- Areas that deal with physical and physiological therapy
- Mapping the neural network and thus utilizing that information in providing psychoanalytic treatment
- Biomedical research is also greatly influenced by this sector
- Clinical medicine and their proper usage
- The science of dentistry
- Occupational therapy
- Alternative medicine that might also include drugs in the developmental stages Thus computational biology forms a holistic picture that is destined to improve the overall public health.
Required Qualifications for a Career in Computational Biology
At your 10+2 level, the combination of subjects that will benefit you will be Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Maths or Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Computer Science.
At the master’s level, it will be ideal to take up specialization in either of the following fields: Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Applied Statistics, Bio-Statistics, Epidemiology, Computational Biology, and Bioinformatics.
Required Skills for Careers and Jobs in Computational Biology
1. Programming and software: Python, Galaxy, Bash, MATLAB, Perl, Java, R, C, C++
Statistics: R is a very common tool used in today’s time
2. Bioinformatics Tools: Bio-edit, T-coffee sequence analysis algorithms, Blast, Clustalw, BLAT
3. Bioinformatics Resources and Database Skills: SwissProt, MySQL, SRS Database, UCSC genome browser, NCBI, UniProt, Entrez.
4. Sub-domain software (toolkits): Argus, Oracle, ChemmineR, Indigo, Scaffold, Enalos, ProtMAX (Proteomics), PerlMol, AutoDock, SwissDock (Molecular Docking & Drug Discovery), OEChem (Cheminformatics)
5. Data Mining
6. Data Visualization
7. Understanding the basis of life science. Example: Molecular biology, Genetic biology.
8. Soft Skills: Flexibility, Patience, Communication, Teamwork.
Top Colleges for Computational Biology in India
- Stella Maris College (Chennai)
- Miranda House (New Delhi)
- St. Xavier’s College (Ahmedabad)
- BHU (Varanasi)
- Bishop Heber Colleg (Thiruchirapally)
- IISER Pune
- Savitribai Phule Pune University
- Anna University
- Bharathiar University
- Holy Cross College (Tiruchirapalli)
- Deogiri College (Aurangabad)
- CMS College of Science & Commerce (Coimbatore)
Computational Biology Jobs and Salaries
Computational Biology is a pretty broad discipline. It offers a wide range of career opportunities in a varied spectrum globally.
Seekers may find scope as a bio-analyst, clinical pharmacologist or computational chemist in the field of medicine with a basic degree in computational biology. However, with advanced degrees or as a research scholar, students may get into database design and maintenance, informatics development, or even a scientist in proteomics, pharmacogenomics, sequence assembly, and analytics.
Apart from that jobs like pharmacologists or medical coders can fetch them a salary of around Rs 65000 – Rs 1,20,000 per month.
Jobs and Salaries Abroad
There are many medical colleges and research-based universities in the UK that are always in need of research associates and assistants in Computational Structural Biology, protein structural biology offering salaries between £26,560 to £49,950 per year.
As a research scholar or with a basic Ph.D. degree students are eligible for multiple amenities in Asian countries like China, Japan or Korea earning salaries between USD $47,650 and $56,850. In the US, median annuals salaries for MS and Ph.D. degree holders are $82,550 and $118,370 respectively.
About Parinita Gupta: Parinita is a full-time banking professional. Additionally, she is also a passionate blogger and digital marketer.
She mostly writes about the Banking & Finance, Technology, and FinTech sector. But, she also enjoys writing on other topics as well. You can follow her on Twitter.