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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Should Bioinformatics be on your degree?

An interesting topic came up the other day - Should your specialization be on your graduate degree? Apparently, it's under consideration at my university and the faculty is consulting with staff and students to decide.

Unlike most consultation processes, this one got a lot of "reply all" comments, which showed to two distinct responses, one for, and one against. (That there are two sides to this story shouldn't be a surprise, I hope!)

Those in favour claimed that having a generic M.Sc or Ph.D. really doesn't reflect the value of the work you've done in achieving the degree, and it should reflect the subject area you've contributed to. Since nearly all of the replies I saw were from people in the bioinformatics program, having a M.Sc. (Bioinformatics) or Ph.D. (Bioinformatics) just seems way cooler than a generic degree from the faculty of science. Future employers will look at your publication record, anyhow, not what's on your degree.

On the other hand, those against proposed that Bioinformatics is too new a field and is likely to be swallowed up by other fields in the future - making a Ph.D. (Bioinformatics) more of a liability than an advantage. Equally important, many researchers switch fields several times as they follow their research throughout the course of their career, meaning that the bioinformatics specialization could constrain you as you apply for jobs in the future.

So, what's the answer? I haven't the faintest idea. My masters is pretty darn plain, and no one would have the faintest idea that I did it in microbiology and immunology. I have to admit I was underwhelmed when I saw it for the first time... but when it comes time to apply for jobs, I might be very glad to avoid giving away any pretense that I might know some immunology!



Anonymous Greg. said...

Hi Anthony,

I've given this some thought from a personal perspective. I'm sure that there's no one true answer, but it's an interesting issue.

My opinion: if you have no publications, then it's a good idea to have something in your degree title that gives an indication of what you did.

If you have publications, that's all anyone is going to look at.

Presently I'm in the Department of Plant Agriculture...I know nothing about agriculture, and I don't expect to. But I'm confident that the project will lead to publications of a bioinformatics nature, and that's good enough for me.

November 28, 2008 8:11:00 AM PST  

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