Why I'm a Bioinformatics Major

I remember being a senior in high school, stressing about college applications and trying to figure out what I wanted my college experience to look like. I was consumed with worry about which major to choose, how far from home I was willing to go and what kind of institution I was looking for. I’m beyond grateful for the college experience that choosing VCU gave me, in particular, the experience of being a part of the VCU Life Science school’s Bioinformatics program. 

As a child of immigrant parents, both of whose careers are in the field of engineering and computer science, I grew up knowing that computer science is probably one of the most marketable and important skills to have in this day and age. No matter what field you’re in, knowing computer science is an invaluable skill to have on your resume. For instance, archaeologists use programming to piece together what ancient artifacts and ruins may have originally looked like. Economists use computational tools to make financial projections and decisions for their clients. Similarly, biologists are now able to use such computational tools and methods in order to find and understand patterns in genomes—this is part of a large realm of computational biology that we refer to as bioinformatics. 

Bioinformatics is a field of computational analysis that pertains to biological datasets and is oftentimes considered one of the most premier and cutting-edge fields of biotechnology. The best example of bioinformatics “in-action” is The Human Genome Project, where scientists successfully sequenced and mapped all the genes of homo sapiens (humans)! This 13-year international effort has given us the baseline information to further understand molecular medicine and the basis of disease in humans.  

Woman looking into microscope Photo by Trust "Tru" Katsande on Unsplash

When I was originally choosing my major, I didn’t really know much about what it would be like to study bioinformatics. I had taken some computer science courses and biology courses through high school but wasn’t sure what to expect in such a new major. I knew I wanted to pursue the pre-medical track while in college but was unsure about how studying bioinformatics would fit into that. It turns out, it fits exceedingly well.

Being a bioinformatics major has given me unparalleled exposure to premedical studies, as it has offered me a computational lens through which I can view and understand biological concepts. Also, nowadays, it has become increasingly important for all people (including physicians) to be proficient in technology usage. Furthermore, bioinformatics has started being used as a tool to help in diagnosis (genetic counseling) and understanding the prognosis of many diseases and therefore has an immeasurable potential to improve the lives of many people. 

Choosing to be a bioinformatics major was the best decision I made in college. I’ve been able to learn computer science, boost my resume and stand out when being selected for internships. It’s also been very helpful to learn computer science in a college setting because it really improved my problem-solving skills and cognitive abilities. Learning how to create an algorithm and fix issues is a skill that can be translated into many other fields, including medicine. All in all, choosing to be a bioinformatics major has been an incredible experience. I look forward to seeing these skills I’ve accrued translate into my future endeavors!