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Computer science professor leads international task force to develop curriculum guidelines for bioinformatics

Adrienne Cornwall | Apr 7, 2014
welch lonnie

Computer science professor leads international task force to develop curriculum guidelines for bioinformatics

Adrienne Cornwall | Apr 7, 2014

Led by Ohio University’s Professor of Computer Science Lonnie Welch, an international bioinformatics organization has released guidelines for bioinformatics curricula to ensure students graduate with the necessary skill sets for work in computational biology.

Following a 2012 report outlining the skill sets required to be a bioinformatician, the Curriculum Task Force of the International Society of Computational Biology (ISCB) Education Committee has broadened its findings to include recommended curriculum guidelines for education and training of future bioinformatics professionals.

Lead author Welch, who is also director of the Center for Scientific Computing and Immersive Technologies at the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology, said the guidelines published March 6 in “Bioinformatics Curriculum Guidelines: Toward a Definition of Core Competencies” offer recommendations for bioinformatics educators on the skills and knowledge that professional bioinformaticians are expected to bring to the job market.

“We hope the current report will be valuable for those who are developing new degree and training programs as well as for those who wish to keep existing programs up-to-date,” Welch said.

Computational biology, or bioinformatics, involves developing new processes for computing genetic and biological data and correlating the data to health outcomes, including onset, diagnosis, progression and treatment of diseases like cancer, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

Due to rapid development in this field, educational needs are constantly advancing, and the paper’s recommendations provide guidance on foundational knowledge needed by the three types of bioinformaticians working in the field: bioinformatics users, bioinformatics scientists, and bioinformatics engineers.

Co-authored by Vicky Schneider, head of the Scientific Training, Education and Learning Program at The Genome Analysis Centre research institute in England, the guidelines emphasize how understanding these core skill requirements is helpful for standardizing curricula despite significant program variations.

“Initiatives such as this one led by ISCB and involving the community are a great way to provide an overview of what is happening across the globe in terms of bioinformatics curriculum, harmonizing the efforts and bringing recognition to research-driven bioinformatics,” Schneider said.