Colleges with an Outstanding Bioinformatics Department & Faculty

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Students with an interest in data science, computation, visualization, and biological patterning may find a career in bioinformatics rewarding. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) reports that the related field of computer and information scientists was projected to grow 16 percent between 2018 and 2028, adding 5,200 new jobs. This rate is considered much faster than the expected average growth for all careers during the same decade (5 percent).

As an area of study, bioinformatics draws on biology, information technology, computer science, statistics, informatics, mathematical modeling, computational theory, data charting, data analytics, and administration. Universities with an excellent bioinformatics faculty teach these subjects with an interdisciplinary approach.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information’s (NCBI) definition of bioinformatics is “conceptualizing biology in terms of macromolecules (in the sense of physical-chemistry) and then applying ‘informatics’ techniques (derived from disciplines such as applied maths, computer science, and statistics) to understand and organize the information associated with these molecules, on a large-scale.”

Bioinformatics is almost always chosen as a specialization at the graduate level, though a number of interdisciplinary degrees have emerged in recent years. When it comes to coursework, the subjects of probability, statistics, population genetics, computing, molecular genomic analysis, epigenomic data analysis, biostatistics, biological mathematical modeling, and even computational neuroscience may form part of a bioinformatics curriculum. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of subjects to be studied.

Read on to learn more about 15 excellent bioinformatics faculty and the three standout institutions with which they are affiliated.

Iowa State University – College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Iowa State University’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences hosts a top-notch graduate program in bioinformatics and computational biology. Its professorial body comprises renowned genomics, genetics, and biomedical statistics experts who have contributed to the burgeoning field of bioinformatics. The school was founded in 1858 as the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm, focusing on vocational and husbandry training.

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    KARIN S. DORMAN, PHD

    Dr. Karin Dorman is a professor and member of the supervisory committee of the bioinformatics and computational biology program at Iowa State University. She teaches and researches in the subject areas of comparative genomics, statistical bioinformatics, and mathematical biology. She holds joint appointments in the Department of Statistics and the Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology.

    Dr. Dorman earned her BS in mathematics and biology from Indiana University and her PhD in biomathematics from UCLA.

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    ROBERT JERNIGAN, PHD

    Dr. Robert Jernigan is a professor in the bioinformatics and computational biology program at Iowa State University. He studies and lectures on protein dynamics, data mining, molecular mechanisms, genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics, and deleterious protein mutants.

    Professor Jernigan holds a BS in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology and a PhD in physical chemistry from Stanford.

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    MARIT NILSEN-HAMILTON, PHD

    Dr. Marit Nilsen-Hamilton is a professor in the bioinformatics and computational biology program at Iowa State University. She currently runs the Nilsen-Hamilton Lab, and her areas of expertise include structural bioinformatics, specifically the application of bioinformatics research to help detect and treat the early signs of disease.

    Dr. Nilsen-Hamilton holds both a PhD and a BS degree in biochemistry from Cornell University. Notably, she also served as a postdoctoral fellow in cell biology at The Salk Institute.

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    RAVINDRA SINGH, PHD

    Dr. Ravindra Singh is a professor in the bioinformatics and computational biology program at Iowa State University. He teaches and researches in the subject areas of proteomics, structural bioinformatics, and comparative genomics. The Singh Lab has done groundbreaking work on understanding more about RNA binding proteins and how to apply bioinformatic data.

    Dr. Singh holds a PhD in biochemistry from the Russian Academy of Science and did postdoctoral work at Oregon State and the University of Texas at Austin.

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    GUANG SONG, PHD

    Dr. Guang Song is a professor in the bioinformatics and computational biology program at Iowa State University. He researches and teaches in the areas of computational biology, protein structure, protein dynamics, ligand migration pathways, biophysical processes, molecular dynamics simulations, coarse-grained modeling, and bioinformatics applications.

    Dr. Song holds a PhD in computer science from Texas A&M.

University of Pittsburgh – Department of Biological Sciences

The University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Biological Sciences strives toward new scientific territory with its research-heavy undergraduate and graduate programs in bioinformatics. Their department combines genetics, genomics, and biostatistics to offer a truly unique bioinformatics program. Many professors enjoy joint commissions to varying departments focusing on the biological sciences, and the curricula reflects that fact.

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    KAREN ARNDT, PHD

    Dr. Karen Arndt is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. She teaches and researches transcriptional control, genomics, bioinformatics, gene expression, and computational biology. She received her PhD in 1988 at UC Berkeley with Dr. Michael Chamberlain and undertook her postdoctoral studies with Professor Fred Winston at the Harvard Medical School.

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    ANDREA J. BERMAN, PHD

    Dr. Andrea Berman is an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. She researches RNA biology and how non-coding RNA directs gene regulation. Dr. Berman received her PhD in molecular physics and biochemistry with Dr. Tom Steitz at Yale and undertook her postdoctoral studies with Professor Tom Cech at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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    PAULA GRABOWSKI, PHD

    Dr. Paula Grabowski is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. She researches computational genomics, molecular biology, and alternative RNA splicing.

    Professor Grabowski holds a PhD from the University of Colorado. She also completed postdoctoral work in her field with Dr. Philip Sharp at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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    JEFFREY LAWRENCE, PHD

    Dr. Jeffrey Lawrence is professor and chair in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. He studies genome evolution, biological speciation, genomics, ecological adaptation, and computational biology. He takes particular interest in bacterial genomics. He received his PhD from Washington University, St. Louis, where he worked closely with Professor Daniel L. Hartle. Dr. Lawrence then completed his postdoctoral studies at the University of Utah.

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    JAMES M. PIPAS, PHD

    Dr. James Pipas is the Herbert W. and Grace Boyer Chair in Molecular Biology and a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. He specializes in bioinformatics, viral proteins, viral metagenomics, viral discovery, and computational techniques used in these contexts. The Pipas Lab, along with its undergraduate and postdoctoral researchers, searches for answers to questions raised in these fields.

    Dr. Pipas earned his PhD with Professor Robert Reeves at Florida State University. He also undertook his postdoctoral studies with Dr. John Wilson at Baylor College and with Dr. Dan Nathans at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

University of Rochester – School of Medicine and Dentistry

The School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Rochester houses an excellent program in bioinformatics. The school also operates the Center for Biomedical Informatics, where many of the institution’s bioinformatics professors conduct valuable, cutting-edge research. There is much overlap between the departments of pediatrics, biophysics, and biomedical genetics, as bioinformatics utilizes raw data from each of these fields to pursue answers to burning research questions. The School of Medicine and Dentistry also offers a PhD in genetics, which draws significantly on the study of bioinformatics.

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    MICHAEL D. BULGER, PHD

    Dr. Michael Bulger is an associate professor at the University of Rochester. He holds joint appointments in the Departments of Pediatrics and Biochemistry and Biophysics. Professor Bulger researches and teaches on the topics of genomics and bioinformatics.

    He holds a BS in molecular and cell biology from Pennsylvania State University and a PhD from UC San Diego. He did his postdoctoral fellowship at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA.

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    WEI HSU, PHD

    Dr. Wei Hsu is a professor at the University of Rochester. He teaches and studies in the subject areas of stem cell biology, computational biology, genomics, and bioinformatics. Dr. Hsu’s lab is interested in genomics, regenerative medicine, epigenetic regulation, and signalling pathways. He holds a BS in chemistry from the University of Taiwan, as well as MS and PhD degrees in biomedical sciences from the CUNY Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.

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    HARTMUT K. LAND, PHD

    Dr. Hartmut Land is an associate professor at the University of Rochester. Dr. Land researches and studies molecular biology, bioinformatics, computational biology, and biomedical genetics. He is chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and holds a Robert and Dorothy Markin Professorship. Notably, he holds a patent in “Compositions that Inhibit Proliferation of Cancer Cells.” He earned his PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Heidelberg, Germany.

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    THOMAS MARIANI, PHD

    Dr. Thomas Mariani is an associate professor at the University of Rochester. He studies immune cell dysregulation, identifying diagnostic biomarkers, and characterizing the exposure to tobacco products during childhood. The Mariani Lab utilizes computational biology and bioinformatics techniques in the Golisano Children’s Hospital to better understand the genomics of childhood diseases.

    Dr. Mariani holds a PhD in microbiology and molecular genetics and a BS in biology from Rutgers University.

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    DAVID H. MATHEWS, MD, PHD

    Dr. David Mathews is an associate professor at the University of Rochester in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. He teaches courses on computational biology, genomics, and bioinformatics. The goal of his research initiative, the Mathews Lab, is to automate the modeling of RNA from genome to 3D model.

    Dr. Matthews holds a BS in physics, a PhD in chemistry, and an MD. He is an alumnus of the University of Rochester.

Methodology

Schools that meet our criteria for designation as one with an excellent bioinformatics program must:

  • Offer comprehensive bioinformatic programs that prioritize graduate learning
  • Assign cutting-edge curriculum that integrates research from contemporary scholarship in bioinformatics
  • Boast a demonstrated history of student satisfaction in academics, facilities, and curricula
  • Retain a staff of credentialed and peer-reviewed bioinformatics scientists and researchers

To decide who to include in our grouping of top achieving professors and faculty in bioinformatics, MHAOnline examined the following criteria:

  • University Affiliation: Bioinformatics faculty on this list must currently be employed in instruction or research at an accredited university or college.
  • Professional Commitment: Together with whatever research, teaching, or leadership obligations these bioinformatics professors might have, some have risen to positions like faculty dean or program director or have taken advisory positions on the boards of public firms or non-profits.
  • Peer Recognition: In their dedication to bioinformatics, faculty who have set themselves apart may have received special recognition for their published work, grants or allotments for research or funding, or excellence in teaching awards.
  • Publication: In addition to having been featured extensively in peer-reviewed journals, many of the professionals on our list show publication expertise through contributions to quarterly, personal, and mainstream literature, and/or have been featured in various media.

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