Discovering bioinformatics

by Alice Piller

As an undergraduate in Genetics and Statistics, I felt utterly torn between the biological side and the “mathsy”, analytical side of science. Of course, that was a naïve view on science as its fields are not discrete but intertwined. I stumbled across a strange new word in my first year of studying from my older sister (who also studied Genetics) – “Bioinformatics” – which stuck with me until my Honours application.

Bioinformatics seemed like the perfect marriage between all my interests. I describe it as the intersection between genetics, computer science and statistics. I was accepted to an Honours in Bioinformatics at UCT and was excited to combine all my interests and skills in one application.

The course was almost entirely online, which I was initially apprehensive about. The bed-to-desk rotation of the last two years of my undergraduate degree was tough, so I was not looking forward to another year of that cycle. To be honest, I didn’t enjoy it this year either. I felt that an important part of university was missing – the lack of engagement with my lecturers and peers. Luckily, there were some in-person aspects, so this year was a huge improvement from the previous two years.

What I found most satisfying about my degree in Bioinformatics is the feeling of being truly interested in a topic and motivated by career options and prospects of the field. I have found working on my thesis highly stimulating and the lectures opened me up to a whole new ecosystem of research. I cannot wait to see where this field takes me!

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