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Computational Biologist

Solve medical problems using math equations and computer models.

What does a Computational Biologist do?

Computational biologists believe that the world’s problems—specifically its medical problems—can be solved primarily with mathematics and machines. You’re part computer scientist, biologist, geneticist, mathematician, statistician, chemist, and physicist. You borrow ideas and knowledge from a variety of scientific disciplines with the belief that the right data—plugged into the right models and equations—can answer even the most vexing biological questions.

Employed by pharmaceutical companies, universities, nonprofits, private research institutes, and governments, computational biologists can help doctors discover genetic causes of cancer one day and biochemists develop new treatments for Alzheimer’s the next. Always, however, you take the same approach: You develop a theory, collect data, then build databases, mathematical models, and computer simulations with which to analyze and organize your findings.

You’re a lot like a bioinformatics scientist but with one major distinction: While the bioinformatics scientist is interested primarily in methods—that is, the software and algorithms used to store data—you’re interested primarily in outcomes, or the findings that stored data produce. Bioinformatics scientists are engineers building the biological equivalent of a Magic 8 Ball. You, however, are the scientist who shakes it up to come up with specific answers to specific questions!