"Aditi, so what is it that you are studying at Seneca College?" is a common question that usually comes up in a social setting. When I report back saying "A graduate certificate in bioinformatics," I am greeted with blank expressions. I find people are not familiar with the field. Well, it is like how your grade school used to teach you new words, by breaking down words to build meaning: Bio is the study of life and living organisms, and informatics is gathering, manipulating, storing, recoding, and retrieving information. In essence, using computers to analyze biological data to uncover the mystery called DNA. DNA is made up of four chemical structures (adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine), that are repeated over and over again billions of times. Understanding the order of these chemical structures can reveal the secrets about Evolution, animal diversity, diseases and potential cures. This does not mean we are curing AIDS or cancer in our laboratories, but definitely helping to get closer to it. Speaking of which, Western University has come up with a preventative vaccine for HIV and is now approved by FDA for first phase of clinical trial! Bioinformatics helped biologists analyze data used to create this vaccine. We actually might have a 'possible' tool to combat a virus that has created relentless havoc, pain and suffering to the human mankind, for decades! Exciting, huh? Who knows, now we might be able to help find a cure for the common cold!
The field of bioinformatics is fairly new, which...would explain the blank expressions I keep receiving. It all started in 1990 when National Institute of Health (NIH) in the US initiated a project called the Human Genome Project. NIH in collaboration with international laboratories in 2003 successfully concluded the Human Genome Project and sequenced the entire human genome! It was a terabyte of information of just repeated A's, C's, G's and T's!! The need for understanding, managing such vast amount of data with the least amount of time, resources and human effort gave rise to the field of bioinformatics.
Oh! by the way, my name is Aditi (yeah, about time I introduced myself). I have finished my undergraduate degree in Health Science at the University of Ottawa. Currently, I am a student at Seneca College, pursuing a certificate in bioinformatics (as you all have guessed by now). How did I end up here? Well, it is a long story. In short, I owe it all to my strong background in science, my inquisitive nature and a very annoying sibling (a computer whiz kid), who shaped my interest in computers. Therefore, bioinformatics for me is like having the best of both worlds! A one year graduate certificate at Seneca College provides training to people who come from multi-disciplinary backgrounds in biology or computer science to acquire the skills needed to meet the demands of this field. I think my experience at Seneca College has been very informative and insightful. My goal through this blog is to share my experience with curious individuals like you and get the word out there about the field. My next blog will be about, what is sometimes referred to as "junk DNA" and how an international project called ENCODE brought the letters A, C, G, and T to life!