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The Top 3 Best Computer Science Jobs in Biotechnology



3/20/2017 2:59:49 PM

The Top 3 Best Computer Science Jobs in Biotechnology April 13, 2017
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Biotechnology is the field of identifying, developing and commercializing drugs and therapies. The general vision of the field is a handful of scrappy scientists laboring away in their laboratory. And there’s truth to that idea, although it’s a vast oversimplification.

It’s also true that there are plenty of hugely successful and large biotechnology companies like Genentech (RHHBY) and Shire (SHPG) and Gilead (GILD), just to name a few. These are major companies that employ thousands of people and operate globally.
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Although most people think of jobs in the field of biotechnology as life science jobs—chemists and biologists and biochemists and toxicologists—the field of data science is growing dramatically in biopharma, as is computer science. Biotechnology deals with increasingly large amounts of complex genomic and clinical data and it takes a lot of computing power to make sense of it.

Let’s take a look at computer science and/or bioinformatics jobs in biotechnology.

1. Bioinformatics Researchers.

Best Computer Science Degrees says, “Researchers almost always have attained a high level of education and have PhDs in things like biology, computer science or physics. These professionals generally work in academic or government settings and spend most of the time grant writing and running research labs.”

In the field of bioinformatics, which is to say, the management of data in the biological field, Byte Size Biology wrote, “Bioinformatics researchers tend to have PhDs in Biology, Computer Science, Physics, Math, or Statistics. Pursuing a PhD in any of these areas and focusing your research on biologically relevant problems is a good starting point for a research career.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that Computer and Information Research Scientists had a median annual pay in 2015 of $110,620 per year and from 2014 to 2024 is expected to grow at 11 percent, which is faster than average.

BioSpace.com currently has 47 job postings that come up when “bioinformatics” is the search term. An example includes Bioinformatics Scientist for WAVE Life Sciences (WVE) in Cambridge, Mass., which is looking for a “knowledgeable and highly motivated individual who will help design and build the next generation of software tools for the development of oligonucleotide therapeutics and genomic analysis.”

2. Bioinformatics Analysts.

Byte Size Biology notes that Bioinformatics Analyst isn’t really a standard term, but is useful in separating out a specific type of work. The analysts, not surprisingly, analyze data for the scientists, or perform their own analyses. The site notes, “A strong background in statistics is essential (and, unfortunately, often missing) for this role along with a good understanding of biology. Lab skills are n

Study.com notes that the average annual salary of Bioinformatics Analysts in 2015 was $77,190, and projected job growth from 2014 to 2024 is 8 percent (Study.com notes it pulled the data from the BLS). The site says, “Bioinformatics analysts are responsible for manipulating and presenting genomic data and organizing and keeping databases up-to-date. They are also responsible for quality assurance and must adhere to specific protocols.”

An example from BioSpace.com is Bioinformatics Analyst, Translational Genetics for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN) in Tarrytown, NY. The job calls for a Master’s degree in bioinformatics with at least two years of field-related experience, or a bachelor’s degree with three to five years of directly related experience. The duties are described as taking “on responsibilities for providing broad bioinformatics support for genetics projects within the Translational Genetics group and manipulating and representing large-scale phenotypic and genotypic data sets to support the analysis and presentation of results.”

3. Engineers/Developers.

Again, not really a standard term, but bioinformatics engineers and developers “write the software tools used by analysts and researchers and may perform research themselves,” writes Byte Size Biology. “A deep understanding of algorithms and data structures, software engineering, and high performance computing is required to really excel in this field, though good programming skills and a desire to learn the science are enough to get started.”

Glassdoor indicates that the average national salary for a Bioinformatics Engineer is $75,809.

An example on BioSpace.com includes Senior Bioinformatics Engineer for Seres Therapeutics (MCRB) in Cambridge, Mass. The job requires a degree in computer science, computational biology, bioinformatics or other released disciplines, and an advanced degree is preferred, but not required. The key responsibilities include: “Design, model, and develop data management systems that integrate laboratory, operation, and research data,” and “Design, build, improve, and maintain high performance and highly scalable data pipelines.”

These are broad job titles for bioinformatics and computer science. Using a little more creativity in search terms on the BioSpace site came up with a variety of computer and IT-related job titles, such as Digital Engagement Technology Analyst for Amgen (AMGN) in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Associate Director, Data Steward – IKU (Information, Knowledge, Utilization) for Celgene (CELG) in Summit, NJ., and IT Manager, Computer Systems Compliance for Five Prime Therapeutics (FPRX) in South San Francisco, Calif.

Recently, Bill Gates, speaking at Columbia University with Warren Buffett, was asked by a student in the audience what field of endeavor would cause him to drop out of school today. Keep in mind that in 1975, Gates dropped out of Harvard to found Microsoft. Computers were his hobby and the timing was right. Gates’ top three answers now were artificial intelligence, the energy sector, and biotechnology. He noted that biotechnology was “moving faster than ever.”

Biopharma is an exciting and dynamic industry, with a huge and growing need for individuals with computer, IT, biostatistics and mathematics skills. Check it out!

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