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Data Science & Biotechnology Careers

DATA SCIENCE & BIOTECHNOLOGY

BIOTECHNOLOGISTS USE BIOLOGICAL ORGANISMS TO DEVELOP OR MAKE INNOVATIVE PRODUCTS DESIGNED TO IMPROVE HEALTH, FOOD AND THE WORLD AROUND US.

The application of data science in biotechnology is about far more than simply mining massive data sets. Data science is fundamentally about the extraction of knowledge from information; and it is the degree of knowledge that is the important part, not the volume of information.

THE EMERGENCE OF BIOTECHNOLOGY

According to an article in Science Magazine, the field of bioinformatics has evolved from being simply another tool in the researcher’s toolbox into a discipline in its own right. Analysts who once existed simply to deliver the reports that would help answer the questions that scientists and clinicians posed are now being called upon to help define the very questions that are being asked.

Data science is now its own focus of research within the sphere of biotechnology.

The explosion of data has contributed to a slew of firsts for the biotechnology sector in 21st century. Industries seized upon the discoveries, pumping funds into the development of new drugs, bio-engineered farming and alternative energy.

This new role demands a higher level of education for prospective data scientists working as bioinformaticians, as they progress from the role of mere technician into fully-fledged research scientists.

As a Biotechnologist you’ll study the genetic, chemical and physical attributes of cells, tissues and organisms in order to develop new technologies, processes and products that will improve the quality of human life, enhance vaccines, medicines, energy efficiency or food productivity and safety.

Large biotechnology companies tend to use the term biotechnologist as a job title. Others use titles such as laboratory technician, research assistant, genomic technologist, flow technologist or bioprocessing engineer. If the position involves using live organisms and biomolecular processes within a biotechnological discipline, it’s likely to be a biotechnologist role.

TYPES OF BIOTECHNOLOGISTS

Biotechnologists use a variety of scientific disciplines to improve processes for a range of different industries including pharmaceuticals, healthcare, biofuels, agriculture, conservation, animal husbandry and food production.

Types of biotechnology include:

  • environmental – detecting and controlling pollution and contamination in the environment, industrial waste, and agricultural chemicals, creating renewable energy and designing biodegradable materials to reduce humanity’s ecological footprint
  • medical and health – using live organisms or biomolecular processes to develop and improve treatments, identify inherited diseases, cure certain disorders, and even lead to organ regeneration
  • industrial – using cloning and enzyme production to preserve and enhance the taste in food and drink, and developing enzymes to remove stains from clothing at lower washing temperatures
  • agricultural biotechnology – improving animal feed and genetically modifying crops to increase pest resistance and productivity
  • biofuels – using organic compounds to reduce the cost of bio-refining reagents and put biofuels on an equal footing with fossil fuels, and creating chemicals from renewable biomass to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • marine and aquatic biotechnology – increasing the yields of farmed fish and designing disease-resistant strains of oysters and vaccines against certain viruses that can infect fish.

You would usually specialise in one area of biotechnology, such as:

  • biochemistry – microbiology, forensics, plant science and medicine
  • cancer studies – detection and treatment
  • genetics – detecting heredity, genetic variation and DNA repair
  • molecular biology – DNA, RNA and protein synthesis function
  • microbial sciences – antibiotic-resistant bacteria and improving fermentation
  • pharmacology – drug action on biological systems
  • stem cell research – modification and regenerative medicine
  • virology – viruses and viral diseases.

RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Designing and implementing research studies
  • Extract, analyse and interpret large amounts of data from a range of sources, using algorithmic, data mining, artificial intelligence, machine learning and statistical tools
  • Make the data accessible to businesses.
  • Developing new research procedures
  • Working with lab technicians on research
  • Setting up the laboratory equipment to conduct and monitor experiments
  • Recording findings and analysing the results
  • Identifying how the research can be applied to improving human life

KEY SKILLS FOR BIOTECHNOLOGISTS

  • Strong performance in mathematics and information technology related subjects
  • Complex problem solving
  • Team work and communication skills
  • An investigative mind
  • Attention to detail
  • Innovative thinking
  • Analytical skills

QUALIFICATIONS

You’ll typically need a science degree, usually a 2:1 or above, to get into Biotechnology.

Some employers will also ask for a postgraduate qualification (MSc or MRes). Having a postgraduate qualification, such as a Masters or PhD, is particularly important if you want to follow a career in research or academia.

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