Kettering U Creates Bioinformatics Major

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Kettering University will begin to offer a bachelor of science degree in bioinformatics in summer 2011, a hybrid field where biology, computer science and statistics merge to form a single discipline. 

Kettering Provost Robert Simpson said Kettering’s newest major will have a heavy focus on storage and algorithmic searching of biological information, particularly genomic information. 

“The National Science Foundation says that Bioinformatics is an area of ‘national skill need,’” Simpson said.  “The program will use existing faculty and is an excellent example of how two academic departments working together can foster collaboration. The early goal for the program is 20 students a year.”

The Kettering Bioinformatics program will be one of only 23 undergraduate degree-granting programs in the United States, according to John Geske, department head for computer science. Only one other university in Michigan — Michigan Technological University — offers an undergraduate bioinformatics degree program.

Geske worked with Stacy Seeley, department head for chemistry and biochemistry, to develop the curriculum. The bioinformatics degree will originate from the computer science department in collaboration with the chemistry and biochemistry department. Its goal is to provide students with a strong foundation in computational methods used to analyze biological systems. 

Students in Kettering’s bioinformatics program will study software development, data storage, information retrieval and statistical search techniques while gaining a solid background in biological chemistry by taking courses and laboratories in organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry and biochemistry. 

Special emphasis in the biological area will be achieved through courses and laboratories in biology. All bioinformatics students at Kettering will also have several terms of professional co-op work experience, so that concepts learned in the classroom can be applied to real world problems.

“A bioinformatics degree provides an excellent foundation for careers in biotechnology, medicine, pharmacology, environmental fields, technical management, education, business, software engineering and information systems,” Seeley said.

Additionally, graduates will be able to pursue an advanced degree in bioinformatics, computer science, chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology or medicine, Geske noted.

For photos and more on Kettering’s  new  Bioinformatics major, visit www.kettering.edu/visitors/storydetail.jsp?storynum=3066.

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