A lack of trained Bioinformaticians
There is a world-wide lack in trained Bioinformaticians resulting in long lists of positions that remain open. Some years ago Wageningen University in the Netherlands started with one of the first fully dedicated MSc curricula in Bioinformatics. Graduates are already in high demand both in industry and in academic research including medical sciences.
In 1999, it was decided at European level to harmonise the educational system within the European Union: all programmes within higher education were translated into the so-called bachelor's-master's structure. This structure comes that students first do a bachelor's programme, which can be followed by a Master of Science programme. Advantages for students, the flexibility is one of the benefits of this new structure: after obtaining the BSc-certificate it is possible to (temporarily) leave university. However, most students will continue their academic carreer, by doing a Master of Science programme. This can be done at their own university, but also at another, foreign university. A MSc-titel automatically gives the graduate the possibility to start a PhD-programme.
The MSc programme in Bioinformatics at Wageningen University provides students having a BSc in Life Sciences with skills necessary to manipulate these large biological datasets, the ability to analyze these data and the ability to develop new bioinformatics tools.
Focus on the practical application of Bioinformatics
At Wageningen the Bioinformatics programme focuses on the practical application of Bioinformatics. Depending on previous BSc degree, candidates are requested to follow supplementary advanced courses in biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, or genetics. The curriculum commences with basic training in database management, computer programming and training in elementary bioinformatics tools aimed at using existing software to collect, analyze and interpret DNA and protein sequence information and moves on to more open challenges. Advanced bioinformatics courses deal with structural and functional genomics, transcriptomics and DNA array technology data, proteomics and metabolomics data and with the emerging field of systems biology.
Depending on the candidate's skills and interest advanced courses in 3D protein modelling, genome annotation or in software design can be taken. The last part of the programme consists of a Bioinformatics thesis period of 6 months. Typical thesis projects include genome annotation, design and testing of mutant proteins, and development of new algorithms to facilitate protein domain recognition. The duration of the MSc Bioinformatics programme is 18-24 months, depending on entry qualifications. The programme commences annually in September. Under certain conditions it is possible to start in January.