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Rhodes > Faculty of Education > Latest News > 2011

One-year MSc programme back

Date Released: Fri, 18 March 2011 14:10 +0200

Rhodes University Bioinformatics (RUBi) research laboratory in the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Biotechnology has reinitiated the one-year MSc programme. 

This year the programme accepted three MSc students out of 15 applications. RUBi is planning to expand the MSc numbers next year.

The new MSc students, Joyce Njoki Njuguna, Alex Muchugia Mathu and Rowan Hatherley, already had a great opportunity to attend an international bioinformatics conference in Cape Town last week, and hear about the latest developments.

The MSc programme is a collaborative one involving the Departments of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Biotechnology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Mathematics, and Statistics; as well as guest lecturers from the University of Cape Town and the University of Pretoria.

Bioinformatics, also known as computational molecular biology, is an interdisciplinary science. It uses information technology, physics, mathematics, statistics and biology to solve biological problems by computer. Although the term “bioinformatics” was first used in 1989, bioinformatics has been practised since the 1960s, with the first computers were introduced into biology laboratories.

The question about the biological problems tackled by bioinformaticians is surfacing often. The main ‘problem’ is biological data, the quantity in which it occurs, and the complexities of the interactions between various types of data.

The ultimate aim of bioinformatics is to uncover the hidden information in biological data and help understand and to be able to use it for the benefit of human and animal health, improved agricultural products, environmental protection and many other areas.

RUBi is particularly interested in structural bioinformatics which is dedicated to the study of the three-dimensional structures of macromolecules such as proteins to understand the function of these molecules. Structural bioinformatics has lots of applications to disease or agriculture-related research areas.

Drug design is a very important part of structural bioinformatics. Furthermore, for example, the analysis of plant proteins to develop low-maintenance crops with high-yield, in agriculture, or the analysis of bacteria proteins that are capable of cleaning up polluted areas would be also interest to structural bioinformatics among many more applications.

Picture: Joyce Njoki Njuguna, Dr Ozlem Tastan Bishop, Group Leader of RUBi, Alex Muchugia Mathu, Rowan Hatherley.