How to pursue a career in data science

The Bioinformatics and Sytems Biology master’s degree at Manchester aims to provide students with a biological background to the data type of genomics, proteomics and metabolomics whilst also developing their computational and analytical understanding in relation to processing biological data. The course also gives students the opportunity to get involved in project work in the fields of bioinformatics and systems biology. If this sounds like it might be for you, then take a look at what recent graduate, Dimitrios Solomos, has had to say about his experience of the programme…

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I am Dimitrios and my academic journey started back in 2014 when I came from Greece to study Biomedical Sciences at the University of Salford. After the completion of the three years of the course and one additional year on a research placement, I was accepted at the University of Manchester to further my studies through the MSc programme of Bioinformatics and Systems Biology.

Whilst on my placement during my undergraduate degree, I became aware of the high importance of data and became inspired to learn how to handle vast amounts of biological data. Naturally, I searched for a postgraduate degree which would help me to succeed on this path and I discovered the Bioinformatics course. After I had made the decision to study Bioinformatics and Systems Biology, the institution could be no other than the University of Manchester – a university that has excelled in the field and one of the most prestigious UK institutions worldwide. The fact that it is in my favourite UK city, Manchester, was the cherry on top of the cake.

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Having to move from the benches of a lab and experimental essays to the PC desks and developing computational code was undoubtedly a big challenge and was my biggest concern prior to starting the course. However, after combining the friendly course design with the personal development in the field, that fear went out of the window. The modules of the course included Statistics, Programming skills, Computational Biology and Bioinformatics. All of them were designed to introduce someone with no prior experience to the coding and the scientific environment, but also to gradually enrich any pre-existing knowledge.

The highlight of my year was when I managed to develop a fully functioning web application from scratch for my final Research Project. To go from having no prior experience or knowledge of coding to completing that was a really proud moment for me. My task was to create an interactive database to store, retrieve and handle research data held in the Manchester Eye Tissue Repository regarding Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – a leading cause of blindness worldwide. The application was written in Django (a Python framework), containing standard web development inputs of HTML/CSS/Javascript.

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For me, the course has already equipped me with the experience and skills to move on with my career. The influence of the course became apparent when I was approached by a number of recruiters for professional and academic opportunities even before I submitted my final dissertation, and before I had finished the course I was accepted for a very interesting and well wanted Data Science role.

In my current role I am required to use statistical and data science tools such as SPSS modeller, Python and R to analyse and predict problematic gambling behaviour of players that use online gambling platforms. This is a path that I have chosen to go down in order to broaden my data science knowledge and experience. As it is a fast-growing field, I am aiming to acquire as much knowledge as possible before hopefully moving into a more leading and managerial role somewhere down the line.

If I had to give some advice to ambitious students, it would be to follow the guidance provided by the excellent academics, but also never stop developing and improving your skills. Think outside the box and take educational initiatives. Stay active! Finally, when in doubt, ask!


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