Noreen’s Story

photo of Noreen Brenner“I entered the Bioinformatics Professional Science Master’s Program with an MA in biology (molecular, cellular, and developmental biology or MCD). As a person with a background in biology, I found the PSM Program to be an extremely useful complement to my knowledge of biology, specifically MCD. In the PSM Program, I was able to acquire knowledge of SQL, Python, Perl, and R, crucial database management or programming languages, which are essential components of the bioinformaticist’s repertoire and can be applied to answer questions pertaining to MCD. For instance, one can use Perl programming to find a TATA box or any particular motif in a DNA sequence or one can use Perl to see if two proteins interact with one another. The software tool SQL can be used to query a biological database or modify it. R is used to conduct statistical analyses. In the program, students learn to perform epistasis analyses to find out which of two interacting proteins is downstream. The Biostatistics/Computational Biology class teaches one how to do enrichment analyses, where you take a list of differentially expressed genes and find out which biological processes are represented in a statistically significant fashion. The classes offered in the PSM Program prepare the aspiring bioinformaticist to work with the tools that a bioinformaticist needs. My advice to the student aiming to successfully complete the PSM is to prestudy. Obtain the syllabi from the professors, get the textbooks, and prepare for the class. Being ahead of the game is an advantage. The PSM Program has hired a bioinformaticist, Professor Benjamin King, to teach the essential class ‘Introduction to Bioinformatics’. Professor King is an excellent pedagogue with a lot of practical experience in bioinformatics. Note that Applied Field Research is a cornerstone of the program. Importantly, there are professors at UMaine, Jackson Lab, and elsewhere whom one can take Applied Field Research in bioinformatics with, as they are knowledgeable about bioinformatics. The coordinator/chairperson of the program, Professor David Neivandt, and Kristen Freeman, the special assistant to the chairperson, go out of their way to help students. My personal advisor has also been especially helpful. I wholeheartedly recommend the PSM Program in Bioinformatics to every prospective student wishing to obtain a firm foundation in the field.”

– Noreen Brenner