Penn State launches new online graduate certificate in applied bioinformatics

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The breakthrough of sequencing the human genome created a need for professionals with backgrounds in life and computer sciences to analyze vast amounts of biological data for developing gene-based drugs and treatments.

In response, Penn State World Campus is offering a new graduate certificate in applied bioinformatics that will train a new generation of biomedical researchers in computational thinking and procedures. These skills will allow them to apply algorithmic processes, tools and techniques to their data for a deeper understanding of biological processes.

Faculty from the Penn State Eberly College of Science will teach the 11-credit certificate program.

“This field is really poised to grow and impact society as a whole,” said Istvan Albert, associate professor of bioinformatics, biochemistry and molecular biology, and the lead faculty member for the certificate program. “I think we’re only at the beginning of understanding how cellular activity works, and the best is yet to come.

“What life scientists currently need the most is the availability of training that imparts the know-how and practical knowledge that can be put to immediate use in biomedical labs that rely on sequencing technologies.”

Applications are now being accepted for enrollment in the spring 2015 semester.

The completion of the Human Genome Project in the early 2000s and the subsequent adoption of massively parallel sequencing technologies have generated a “big data” problem for scientists and researchers, Albert said.

“Biology has become a data-intensive science, yet few life scientists have received training in data analytics and computing technologies,” he said. “Our certificate is designed to fill this gap and provide the required knowledge and skills that prepare the new generation of life scientists for the data revolution that is already underway.“

Albert said courses in the certificate program will focus on applied learning. For instance, students will learn to perform realistic data analysis protocols based on the latest breakthroughs in science, including studies of genome variation, gene expression changes, de-novo genome assembly and more.

Penn State is a major research center for computer science aimed at advancing bioinformatics, and its faculty members have participated in developing well known bioinformatics tools and resources such as BLAST, Galaxy and Biostars.

In addition to Albert, faculty who will teach courses include Anton Nekrutenko, Ross Hardison and faculty from the University’s Department of Statistics. Nekrutenko is the principal investigator of the Galaxy project, the most widely used bioinformatics data analysis platform. Hardison is the T. Ming Chu Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a member of the ENCODE project.

People who complete the certificate may go on to work for pharmaceutical, biotechnical and software companies as bioinformatics scientists, technicians or statisticians; next-generation sequencing analysts; genome curators; bioanalysts; and geneticists.

In addition to World Campus and Eberly College of Science, Penn State’s Huck Institute of the Life Sciences is supporting the certificate program.

For more information about the certificate in applied bioinformatics, visit the program’s website.

Last Updated August 10, 2015