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Bioinformatics

Bioinformatics is a highly specialized discipline that has emerged from two remarkable phenomena. The first is found in the evidence-gathering, research-intensive world of molecular biology where great amounts of data have been amassing for years. Genome research, for example, has resulted in an exponential growth in the amount of genetic and protein structure data available to biologists. The second is found in the world of computing where increasingly powerful machines, smarter software and tools for analysis, and faster networks for accessing data are being developed. Bioinformatics is the interdisciplinary study that applies the latest ideas of computer science to this wealth of new data to solve important biological problems. The benefits can be applied to the health and medical, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and environment sectors of society.

Bioinformatics is offered jointly by both the Faculties of Mathematics and Science, combining the strengths of biology and computer science. Courses through the Faculty of Mathematics in computer science, mathematics, and statistics will develop your analytical and problem-solving skills. Courses through the Faculty of Science in biology, biochemistry and chemistry will increase your knowledge of organisms, plants and mammals, while you develop research skills and laboratory techniques. Through a series of new courses that combine computer science and biology, students are introduced to this emerging area of study and are exposed to issues and trends in bioinformatics.

At present, demand exceeds the supply of professionals in bioinformatics. It is estimated that "In Canada's fast-growing field of bioinformatics, 'there are at least 50 high-quality jobs with salaries of at least $60,000 that are currently unfilled, and the demand is increasing very rapidly.'" Nature,Vol. 399

Focus your studies

You'll be admitted to Honours Bioinformatics (BSc) in first year, and remain in that program or you may choose one of these two other routes:

Computer Science - Bioinformatics Option: This program places greater emphasis on computer science, mathematics, and statistics, and is designed for students who find themselves increasingly interested in the computing and data management side of bioinformatics. You'll earn a BMath upon graduation.

Biology and Bioinformatics: This program places greater emphasis on molecular biology and biochemistry, and is designed for students who finds themselves increasingly interested in the science side of bioinformatics. You'll earn a BSc upon graduation.

System of study

Co-op or regular

Co-op students at work

  • Biomedical Information Intern, Ontario Cancer Institute – database development for clinicians and researchers in hospital settings, web development, programming in Java.
  • Computer Data Analyst, Environment Canada – program development to abstract, compile, quality assure, and transform chemical and meterological data into final databases and to construct statistical and plotting routines to assist data analysis.

Grads at work

  • Manager, Informatics and Program Support, Toronto Centre for Phenogenomics
  • Software Engineer, Bioinformatics Solutions Inc.
  • Research Scientist, Public Health Agency of Canada
  • IM/IT Programmer, Environment Canada

Visit the University of Waterloo Undergraduate Calendar for a list of courses and degree requirements for this program.