Genomics is the study of the ways in which all of the genes in an organism’s DNA - its genome - interact with each other and the environment. While the basic theory of DNA is over a century old, the sequencing of the first complete human genome was only accomplished relatively recently, in 2003 as part of the Human Genome Project. In recent years, the study of the genomics of humans and other organisms has emerged as an important enabler of advances in many areas including the prevention and treatment of disease, improvement of the sustainability and productivity of agriculture, and furthering our understanding of the biology of humans, plants, and animals.
Human beings have over 3 billion DNA pairs and 20,000 genes in their genomes, which can influence everything from our physical appearance to the functioning of our organ systems. Given this enormous complexity, rapid advances in the field of data science along with its application to molecular biology through the related disciplines of computational biology and bioinformatics has made it possible to compare, analyze, and draw insights from genomics far more rapidly than ever before. Genomics data science researchers today typically rely on familiar software implementation tools like Python and R as well as more specialized programs including Bioconductor and Galaxy.
If you are passionate about both human health and technology, a career in genomics science can be incredibly exciting and rewarding. Genomics represents the cutting edge of medical science and computational biology, offering the potential for radically new treatments for disease and a much deeper understanding of how DNA and genes influence who we are.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical scientists earn a median annual salary of $88,790 per year, and these jobs are expected to grow faster than the national average. These researchers typically have a doctorate degree in biology, medicine, or both, as one might expect for a field that integrates the two disciplines.
Absolutely. Coursera offers opportunities to learn about a wide range of subjects in biology and medicine, and genomics sits at the intersection of both. You can take courses and Specializations spanning multiple courses in genomics from a variety of perspectives, including genomic data science, from top-ranked schools like Johns Hopkins University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of California San Diego. And, because you can view course materials and complete coursework on a flexible schedule, learning about genomics on Coursera can fit with your existing work or student life.
If you're a patient, analytical person with great problem-solving and communication skills, you might be suited to a career in genomics. Typically, people in genomics are critical thinkers, they have a strong aptitude for math, they have good time-management skills, and they work well alone and with others. These skills and traits are beneficial because a career in genomics often involves conducting complex research, analyzing the results, and presenting findings to team members or the public.
With a background in genomics, you can become a genomics researcher, a person who studies the effects of genes and gene interaction on health and development. If you're interested in the ethical side of genomics, you can conduct ELSI (ethical, legal, and social implications) research, which examines how new genetic information affects people, families, and society as a whole. With a genomics background, you can become a genomic medical clinician (a nurse, doctor, physician assistant, or pharmacist that specializes in genetics-related care), or you can pursue a career as a genetic counselor. This is a professional counselor that specializes in helping individuals or families make decisions regarding genetics-related health issues. If you love sharing knowledge, you can become a college or university professor in the field of genomics.
If you have a background in genomics, you can go to work in a large hospital or a university laboratory. Other places that hire people with a genomics background include biotech companies, pharmaceutical companies, and government agencies. The field of genomics is expanding rapidly, so employment opportunities around the world are plentiful.
If you're interested in the sciences, you can study genomics-related topics like molecular biology, biochemistry, forensic science, or pathology. If you're drawn to the social sciences, you can study genealogy, physical anthropology, experimental psychology, or ethics.