Bioinformatics@Dutch Universities of Applied Sciences
NBIC chairs LOBIN, the network of bachelor bioinformatics programmes at Dutch Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS). LOBIN activities include exchange of curriculum information, collaborative promotion of bioinformatics among students and teacher training sessions.
Since 2002, Dutch Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS; Dutch: HBO) offer a fulltime, 4-year bioinformatics programme. The particular qualifications of the degree can be found at www.appliedscience.nl (Dutch), the Applied Sciences Domain website. About seventy students enrol in the three UAS bioinformatics courses each year. In order to increase those numbers, public relations and counselling have become focal points.
The significance of bioinformatics in life sciences and biomedical research will increase considerably in the following years. The bioinformatics degree programme was launched to provide the anticipated labour market with 'e-lab' or bioinformatics technicians. The e-lab assistant is active in a biotechnological/ biomedical research environment. He or she deals with the biological data deluge, helps to automate analyses, performs automated analyses and contributes to the development of new analyses and interpretation methods.
UAS programmes in Bioinformatics are offered in Leiden, Groningen and Nijmegen. In addition, a few other UAS offer 1-year specialization courses in bioinformatics. All UAS involved are organized in LOBIN and UAS Bioinformatics is represented in several NBIC committees.
UAS bioinformatics parallels the well-established training programmes for laboratory assistants or technicians for 'wet lab' research environments. The bioinformatics curricula have replaced the customary laboratory pipette with a computer mouse in a Linux environment. From day one, students face the challenging and attractive mix of life sciences (including molecular biology, genetics and microbiology), informatics (including programming, scripting, database technology and web technology) and supporting courses (statistics, chemistry, reporting, presentation, and so on). As a result, the e-lab assistant experiences and knows a lot more about biology than a regular informatician - and a great deal more about informatics than a biologist. The curricula have been developed in close collaboration with the relevant work field, taking the wishes of future employers into account. UAS students do a six months internship (Dutch: stage) and complete a six months graduation project (Dutch: afstudeerproject) in appropriate bioinformatics research environments. UAS Bioinformatics aims to work predominantly with both real and real-life data. Therefore, it is possible -and moreover highly desirable/advisable- for the work field or a future working place to contact a UAS, in order to discuss exploratory data analyses as part of the ongoing training of future e-lab assistants.
Experiences to date
Supervisors of UAS bioinformatics students generally experience that these students are able to contribute substantially to their research because of their programming skills and automated data analyses. So far, about forty students have graduated as Bachelor of Applied Science (B AS). Many have found jobs as e-lab assistants in companies, at universities, in hospitals, or in research institutes both in the Netherlands and abroad. Quite some graduates have chosen to continue their studies and have enrolled in various master programmes.