Biology and Computing (Bioinformatics): University of Birmingham

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Biology and Computing (Bioinformatics): University of Birmingham, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, Birmingham, United Kingdom
GC41: 3 years; CG14 and GC4C: 4 years
+44 (0)121 414 3344
+44(0)121 414 3971

Courses available

  • Biology and Computing (Bioinformatics) BSc
    UCAS code: GC41
  • Biology and Computing (Bioinformatics) MSci
    UCAS code: GC4C
  • Biology and Computing (Bioinformatics) with Professional Placement BSc
    UCAS code: CG14

Bioinformatics is an exciting new discipline at the interface of biology and computer science. With the completion of the Human Genome Project, and the advent of technologies such as DNA chips, we have more than 60 billion pieces of DNA data – all on the internet. There is a high demand among employers for the combination of skills taught on this degree.

Bioinformatics uses computers to interpret and understand information about the biological world. This degree programme offers you the chance to continue your study of Biology while developing expertise in computing. You will learn computer programming and use computers to analyse data from genome projects and other areas of modern biology. The course combines practical work and theory allowing you to develop a wide range of skills and knowledge.

About the School of Biosciences

When you join one of our Bioinformatics programmes you will become part of the School of Biosciences. We are a large and friendly department of research, teaching and technical staff, plus postgraduate and undergraduate students. Our excellence in both teaching and research is recognised by the Quality Assurance Agency and the Research Assessment Exercise.

The department includes the new Centre for Systems Biology which brings together people with expertise in the biological, computing and mathematical aspects of this exciting degree subject. This ensures that we can offer you a sound training in both the computing and the biology aspects of this course, which will help you to develop important transferable skills and allow you to gain first-hand experience of research.

First year

You begin with a thorough grounding in the fundamentals of genetics and cell biology. You learn to program computers and you start to use important bioinformatics software tools. You are also introduced to numerical methods which are essential for the interpretation of large biological data sets.

Second year

You study several aspects of biology including genetics, evolution and molecular biology. You learn to program in Perl and Java, and become more familiar with the computer databases which have enabled the generation and storage of biological data. You learn about statistical and other mathematical tools for analysing and understanding these data.

Third year

In addition to core studies in advanced bioinformatics, you select relevant taught courses from a list on offer to other students in Biosciences, with the option to take courses from Computer Science. Central to your final-year studies is your research project, which makes up one-third of your final year. This offers you the opportunity to experience real research using bioinformatics tools at first hand, thus giving you unique, hands-on experience of applying what you have learned.

Masters year

The Undergraduate Masters programme is a natural progression from the research-led teaching you will experience in your first three years. If you join our MSci course from the outset you will follow much the same programme as the students on the BSc for your first three years. Half of your Masters year will be devoted to a research project; this is a fantastic opportunity to join one of the research labs in the School of Biosciences and make a contribution to the ongoing research. The rest of your time will be devoted to honing your research skills with modules which will expose you to the latest developments in bioinformatics, as well as learning more about how to plan and carry out research and present your findings effectively.

Professional placement

The four-year Bioinformatics with Professional Placement programme offers you a valuable opportunity to work as a professional bioinformatician during the course of your degree and to jump-start your professional career. Your one-year placement will typically be in industry, medical research or field biology, working for one of a wide range of leading companies, and governmental and non-profit organisations.

Teaching and assessment

The opportunity to interact with staff and fellow students, and to question, discuss and explore your subject, is an important part of the course. You will be able to accomplish this in individual and small group tutorials, discussion groups, and problem solving classes. In lectures, staff with specialist knowledge will be teaching you key concepts, which you will follow up with your own reading. The specialist bioinformatics components are taught in small classes, so you will benefit from close attention and support from lecturers as well as from your peers.

Laboratory-based practical work, an integral part of our degree programme, benefits from excellent laboratories and a powerful computer cluster for the use solely of students on this degree. In the first year, you will learn many basic practical skills and have the chance to apply them in a range of investigations; later in the programme you will gain experience of important research skills.

As well as formal examinations, each summer you will do a wide range of assessments including computer practicals, essays or reports, data handling or interpretation exercises, poster presentations, seminar presentations, group work and lab reports.

Career opportunities

You will graduate with a thorough knowledge of molecular cell biology, expertise in writing and using bioinformatics software, and an understanding of statistics. Because of this range of skills, bioinformaticians are at the heart of research in modern biology, and are highly sought after in both universities and in industry. The pharmaceutical, biotechnology, agrochemical and food industries all employ bioinformaticians, as do government and public health laboratories.

Your programming skills also enable a career in the computing and IT industries. Employers in areas such as management, marketing, publishing and public relations also value the qualities you will have developed, such as data analysis, communication skills and the ability to work as part of a team.

Entry requirements

  • Number of A levels required: 3
  • Typical offers: GC41: BBB; CG14: ABB; GC4C: ABB
  • Required subjects and grades:
    A levels:
    two science subjects from Biology/Human Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Computer Science or Physics
    Grade B minimum in Biology and Chemistry, or Double Integrated Science, and Mathematics if not offered at A or AS level
  • General Studies: not accepted, but a good performance may be taken into account if you fail to meet the conditions of the offer
  • International Baccalaureate Diploma: 32–34 points including two from Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics at HL

Other qualifications are considered – see the entry requirements section for full details

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