Doing a PhD in Bioinformatics

What Does a PhD in Bioinformatics Focus On?

Bioinformatics is the application of computational methods in the representation and analysis of biological data. The field of research has become increasingly popular as technological advancements in computing and greater understanding of genome sequencing and other biological metrics has revealed a wealth of potential applications.

Due to overlapping research areas, a PhD in Bioinformatics may see you work with other departments within your University, including biological science, computer science, data science, mathematics, statistics, and physics.

Some of the core areas a PhD in Bioinformatics may focus on are:

  • How to store, process, analyse and interpret complex digital data.
  • The use of bioinformatics to diagnose and treat diseases, for example, investigating antimicrobial resistance.
  • The use of bioinformatics to better understand biological function, for example, investigation protein folding and transcriptional networks.
  • Applications in molecular structure and interaction.
  • Applications in agriculture, for example developing sustainable methods for food production and improving food security.

A PhD in Bioinformatics can also allow you to use a university’s facilities, industry links, and international research groups to broaden our understanding of the field and find new applications of knowledge.

Some PhDs have elective courses which are designed to further a student’s specific area of expertise in the field of bioinformatics. Courses in molecular biology, microbiology, and cell and molecular evolution are popular electives within this field of study. Students can also choose to take an elective in computer science, statistics, data science or business, depending on the focus of their research project and future career plans.

Entry Requirements for A PhD in Bioinformatics

Candidates applying for a Bioinformatics PhD degree will usually need to hold an upper second class honours bachelor’s degree or overseas equivalent. This does not need to be a bioinformatics degree, but must be a graduate degree in a related subject area, for example biology or computer science.

International graduate students are normally asked to provide evidence of their English Language ability. A number of examinations (online and in-person) are available, and the university will specify which transcripts (and minimum scores) they require. The most commonly requested certifications for prospective applicants are the IELTS and the TOEFL.

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How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD in Bioinformatics?

A standard PhD in Bioinformatics requires 3 to 4 years of full-time study, whilst a part-time Bioinformatics course typically takes 6 to 7 years to complete. A Bioinformatics MPhil typically takes 1 to 2 years of full-time study.

Some Bioinformatics courses include additional training modules, outside the core courses, which typically cover transferable skills and prepare you for aspects of research life. These training courses can cover specialist subjects such as computational biology, machine learning biostatistics, and biomedical engineering.

Costs and Funding

The annual tuition fee for a full-time Bioinformatics PhD programme in the UK is typically around £5,500 – £6,000 for home (UK) students. Full-time tuition fees for overseas students are typically around £24,000 – £28,000 per academic year. Tuition fees for UK students studying part-time are normally around £3,000 per annum. The typical cost of a part-time PhD project for overseas students is around £13,000 per year. EU Students starting their programme in the academic year 2021/22 will pay international tuition fees.

Funding for Bioinformatics PhDs is available through UK Research Councils, charities and industry. Most universities also advertise other funding opportunities for students including internal awards and postgraduate scholarships which cover the tuition fees for Bioinformatics PhD programmes. You can also search our database of funded PhD opportunities.

PhD in Bioinformatics Career Paths and Jobs

Due to the various applications and large scope of bioinformatics, there are a number of potential career paths for bioinformatics graduates.

Many PhD in Bioinformatics careers focus on academia. A PhD in bioinformatics salary of those who become professors or lectures can be read in more detail here. You can also join interdisciplinary research groups including related subject areas such as biomedical science, computational biology, molecular biology and systems biology.

In clinical roles, you can use bioinformatics tools to make advances in oncology, genomics and genetic testing, IVF cell scanning and more. This is ideal for those who enjoy the practical application of essential bioinformatics concepts to real world biological problems.

Bioinformatics jobs require specialist knowledge, which PhD students possess. Because of this, the typical bioinformatics scientist salary in the UK is generous, with sufficient experience exceeding £40,000.

Another bioinformatics job is a software developer. Here you are responsible for developing new algorithms and managing data analytics. The salary for bioinformatics doctorates working as software developers can exceed £70,000 at the senior level. This is ideal for those whose PhD project was data oriented, for example those involving statistical genetics, computational methods or artificial intelligence.

Another popular career destination for doctoral students is within agriculture. Those with a doctoral degree in this field can use their knowledge in plant genetics to improve crop yield and reliability. The wheat industry is an example of a common employer in this field.

Other bioinformatics jobs include working as a laboratory technician. As a PhD student you will likely have laboratory experience. These professionals can work in drug development, biopharmaceutical plants, and clinical laboratories.

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