BIOINFORMATIcs

Introduction

We’ve worked on a number of assignments together during our studies, and now we’re both busy writing our MSc theses in collaboration with the Department of Molecular Medicine at Aarhus University hospital, where we share an office with three other students. Mathias and I are working on bladder cancer, and we have huge amount of data from cancer patients who’ve had tests done at the hospital. We compare the bladder cancer tests with blood tests from each patient to study changes in the cellular DNA that might have contributed to developing the disease. We use the same amount of data, but different statistical analysis methods. Our aim is to find significantly mutated genes, and possibly find the causes of the disease.

MADS KROGH JENSEN
AND MATHIAS BRYGGER HANSEN
MSc students at Bioinformatics


Bioinformatics involves the development and application of IT-based solutions for analysing and handling biological and medical data, such as DNA sequences and protein structures. Today, bioinformatics plays an important role in most biological and medical discoveries and workflows concerned with molecular data, such as large-scale genome-sequencing projects. A successful bioinformatics solution combines theoretical and practical knowledge from several areas of science, which is what the two-year MSc in Bioinformatics programme at Aarhus University offers.

IT AND BIOLOGY COMBINED

The MSc in Bioinformatics programme is open to all students with a BSc degree in the natural, technical or health sciences with a significant content of biological and/or computational subjects, such as a BSc degree in bioinformatics, biology, molecular biology, mathematics, statistics or computer science. Students on the programme will be exposed to the many topics in bioinformatics through lectures, projects and exercise sessions; they will specialise in a bioinformatics subject during their thesis work, while also acquiring general competencies in bioinformatics and IT.

Central classes are Genomes and Protein Structures, Next-Generation Sequencing, Medical Genome Analysis, Applied Programming, Algorithms in Bioinformatics, and Statistical Methods in Bioinformatics. Together these courses cover core topics of bioinformatics, building upon biology, statistics and computer science.

TEACHING, RESEARCH, COLLABORATION

The teaching in the programme is greatly influenced by the bioinformatics research at Aarhus University, as all the lecturers are active researchers. Aarhus University has strong research groups within many areas of bioinformatics, e.g. evolutionary bioinformatics, studying how and in what way genomes (hereditary material) in organisms develop over the course of time, and medical bioinformatics, studying the correlations between diseases and genetic factors.

Students will benefit from the down-to-earth, informal relationship between faculty and students. In their thesis project students will have every chance of becoming associated with a research group that will allow them to participate in the group’s scientific discussions and projects. They thus have excellent opportunities for working on active research projects, or participating in collaborative projects with bioinformatics companies.

CAREER PROFILE

The MSc in Bioinformatics programme is both practical and researchoriented. It reflects the interests of the business community, research institutions and the public sector. Students obtain skills within the development of IT for analysing and handling data-intensive systems in general and biological and medical systems in particular. Graduates are thus extremely well placed to find employment as bioinformatics specialists in the biotechnology industry, or in other areas where computational skills in analysis of large amounts of data are essential. They are also attractive to the IT industry as software developers.

Admission requirements

The following Bachelor’s degrees qualify students for admission to the Master’s degree programme in Bioinformatics:

  • A Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science, Biology or Molecular Biology from a Danish university.

The following other degrees can provide admission to the Master’s degree programme in Bioinformatics:

  • A Bachelor’s degree amounting to at least 60 ECTS credits in Bioinformatics can qualify the student for admission, provided the combined academic demands regarding the Master’s degree programme in Bioinformatics can be met.

Other qualifications can provide admission to the Master’s degree programme, provided the university assesses that their level, extent and content correspond to the degrees mentioned above.

Language Requirements

Since English is the language of instruction in all subjects, all applicants are required to provide evidence of their English language proficiency. 

Read how to document your language qualifications

Documentation

Please see the general admission requirements.

Programme structure

The Master’s degree in bioinformatics counts as 120 ECTS credits and includes subjects in the bioinformatics subject area plus subjects from within the biology, mathematics and computer science fields of study. You specialise by participating in course activities and projects and by writing a thesis. During your very first week, you structure your own individual study programme with the help of a teacher from the bioinformatics degree programme by choosing courses from a course catalogue. Your programme is based on your academic qualifications and interests and the subjects you studied for your Bachelor’s degree. The plan must be approved by the Board of Studies before you can enrol for examinations.
For more information about the individual courses, go to: kursuskatalog.au.dk
If you would like information about options regarding a Master’s thesis in bioinformatics, go to the Bioinformatics Research Centre web site.

Academic regulations

 

A year divided into four terms

The teaching is divided into terms with four terms per year. Each term consists of a block of seven weeks followed by an examination period of 2–4 weeks. 

PhD programme

If you have the necessary skills and interest, you have the option of applying for admission to the PhD programme. You can apply when you have completed your Bachelor’s degree and one year of your Master’s degree or when you have completed your Master’s degree. In the PhD programme, you start working on a research project and are gradually trained through courses and personal guidance to become a researcher. For more information, click here or read examples of current research projects at the Bioinformatics Research Centre.

Forms of teaching

At the University of Aarhus, you are in close contact with researchers in a way that you rarely experience at other universities. The door to the professor’s office is always open if you need clarification of the study material, and you are encouraged to ask questions at lectures and during exercises. We make heavy demands on your academic skills and independence. In return, you gain considerable benefits in the form of academic challenges and scientific knowledge, in addition to broad competences.

The teaching at the university focuses on independence, critical thinking and collaboration. Part of the teaching is in the form of lectures that introduce new angles to the material compared with the textbooks. The theoretical and practical exercises take place in small groups where you study relevant issues in depth. Most bioinformatics students also spend a certain amount of time on project work in small groups in connection with the use or development of bioinformatics tools.

The varied forms of teaching, collaboration in groups and the opportunity for close scientific dialogue with the researchers provide you with general competences that are in great demand in the global job market. These competences include abstract, critical and independent thinking, analytical skills and strategic planning. You can use these skills in many contexts – even in jobs you didn’t know you were qualified for.

Student life

Student life

There is more to life as a bioinformatics student at the University of Aarhus than subjects and lessons. As a bioinformatics student, you attend the Bioinformatics Research Centre. The centre is not only young and active, but also has ongoing academic and social activities in which both students and staff participate. In addition, students can use a computer room and a reading room. As a bioinformatics student, you meet students from a number of other science degree programmes in joint lectures. You therefore naturally participate in both social and academic activities together with students of subjects such as biology or computer science. A number of student organisations related to different science degree programmes organise study-related activities as well as excursions, celebrations and social get-togethers, in which you can also participate. The university’s different student associations consist of students who meet to discuss issues relating to their degree programmes, etc. These organisations influence the academic content of the degree programmes, from department and centre level to top management level at the university.

Campus – a unique place

The University of Aarhus is unique, especially because the buildings are grouped in one campus area close to the Aarhus city centre. The campus has many green areas and a beautiful park surrounding a small lake. Here you also find student accommodation and an underground system of corridors, which means that you don’t have to get your feet wet going from the canteen to your study area. There are also lecture theatres and a host of activities ranging from sports days to the regatta on the lake, interesting lectures, a film club, libraries and university celebrations. The campus ensures that you have easy access to the canteen, student counsellors, teachers, the bookshop, the State and University Library and the Friday bar.

Aarhus as a study centre

The university is not all Aarhus has to offer. As the second-largest city in Denmark, Aarhus has numerous different cultural activities. The well-known Aarhus Festival is celebrated for a week at the beginning of September every year and the streets really come to life. During the rest of the year, you can visit different music venues and concert halls in the city or find entertainment at one of the many theatres in Aarhus. The city’s many museums include ARoS – the major international art museum, which is a spectacular place for visual experiences. If you have had enough of cultural activities, you can ride your bike to the beach in no time or go for walks in the Risskov woods or in the beautiful woods around Marselisborg. The forty thousand young students in Aarhus make up 17.5% of the population, which leaves its mark on city life. Aarhus is a young, dynamic city with plenty of opportunities.

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Career

Competence profile

With a Master’s degree in bioinformatics, you have the following competences:

  • You have general knowledge of bioinformatics and detailed knowledge of key disciplines, methodologies, theories and concepts within bioinformatics.
  • You can independently plan, manage and implement projects and apply the results in scientifically relevant decision processes.
  • You can assess the applicability and appropriateness of theoretical, experimental and practical methodologies for the analysis and solution of scientific questions and issues.
  • You can structure your own competence development independently and critically.
  • You are able to systematically and critically familiarise yourself with new subject areas.
  • You can communicate academic questions and issues to both a scientific and a general audience.
  • You can collaborate constructively on a scientific basis to solve subject-related issues.

Job profile

The University of Aarhus educates bioinformatics graduates for the regional, national and international job markets. Bioinformatics graduates find work in a wide range of fields and institutions, particularly within research, development and consultancy. Bioinformatics graduates are employed in jobs that require bioinformatics competences ranging from consultancy and analysis, administration and operation of bioinformatics and IT systems to the development of IT solutions in the biotechnology and biomedical sectors. In addition, a number of bioinformatics graduates work as consultants and software developers in the IT industry.