The MSc in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at UCC is a one-year taught masters course commencing in September. Bioinformatics is a fast-growing field at the intersection of biology, mathematics and computer science. It seeks to create, advance and apply computer/software-based solutions to solve formal and practical problems arising from the management and analysis of very large biological data sets. Applications include genome sequence analysis such as the human genome, the human microbiome, analysis of genetic variation within populations and analysis of gene expression patterns.
As part of the MSc course, you will carry out a three month research project in a research group in UCC or in an external university, research institute or industry. The programming and data handling skills that you will develop, along with your exposure to an interdisciplinary research environment, will be very attractive to employers. Graduates from the MSc will have a variety of career options including working in a research group in a university or research institute, industrial research, or pursuing a PhD.
This MSc course will provide theoretical education along with practical training to students who already have a BSc in a biological/life science, computer science, mathematics, statistics, engineering or a related degree.
The course has four different streams for biology, mathematics, statistics and computer science graduates. Graduates of related disciplines, such as engineering, physics, medicine, will be enrolled in the most appropriate stream. This allows graduates from different backgrounds to increase their knowledge and skills in areas in which they have not previously studied, with particular emphasis on hands-on expertise relevant to bioinformatics:
- Data analysis: basic statistical concepts, probability, multivariate analysis methods - Programming/computing: hands-on Linux skills, basic computing skills and databases, computer system organisation, analysis of simple data structures and algorithms, programming concepts and practice, web applications programming - Bioinformatics: homology searches, sequence alignment, motifs, phylogenetics, protein folding and structure prediction - Systems biology: genome sequencing projects and genome analysis, functional genomics, metabolome modelling, regulatory networks, interactome, enzymes and pathways - Mathematical modelling and simulation: use of discrete mathematics for bioinformatics such as graphs and trees, simulation of biosystems - Research skills: individual research project, involving a placement within the university or in external research institutes, universities or industry.
Full-time students must complete 12 taught modules and undertake a research project. Part-time students complete about six taught modules in each academic year and undertake the project in the second academic year. Each taught module consists of approximately 20 one-hour lectures (roughly two lectures per week over one academic term), as well as approximately 10 hours of practicals or tutorials (roughly one one-hour practical or tutorial per week over one academic term), although the exact amount of lectures, practicals and tutorials varies between individual modules.
There are exams for most of the taught modules in May of each of the two academic years, while certain modules may also have a continuous assessment element. The research project starts in June and finishes towards the end of September. Part-time students will carry out their research project during the summer of their second academic year.
Graduates of this course offer a unique set of interdisciplinary skills making them highly attractive to employers at universities, research centres and in industry. Many research institutes have dedicated bioinformatics groups, while many 'wet biology' research groups employ bioinformaticians to help with data analyses and other bioinformatics problems. Industries employing bioinformaticians include the pharmaceutical industry, agricultural and biotechnology companies. For biology graduates returning to 'wet lab' biology after completing the MSc course, your newly acquired skills will be extremely useful. Non-biology graduates seeking non-biology positions will also find that having acquired interdisciplinary skills is of great benefit in getting a job.