- John Irving
John Irving can’t get enough of UCSC Extension’s Bioinformatics courses. Irving, a bioinformatician with a Ph.D. in molecular biology, completed the Bioinformatics certificate in 2012, and keeps coming back for more.
“I work at a nonprofit now, where we do a lot of research, but there isn’t really anybody there who knows much about bioinformatics, so that’s something I can bring,” Irving says at a January Program Overview at Extension’s Santa Clara facility. “I think the fact that I’m back, taking more courses, even though I finished the certificate, tells you something about my experience at Extension.”
Irving’s path to bioinformatics started with an academic grounding in biology. After completing his Ph.D., he went on to work in the biotech industry for many years, specializing in gene expression, stem cell therapy, and polymerase chain reactions (PCRs). Though he was exceptionally qualified, Irving found himself falling into the pattern that many academically trained scientists do: though he had the scientific foundation, many of the biotech start-ups were looking for employees with a more specific skill set. And then he lost his job.
“I was laid off and on a hiatus, so I decided I wanted to update my skills,” Irving says. “A lot of the PCR/gene expression jobs I was looking into wanted someone with a background in bioinformatics. I realized, while it’s great to have knowledge, lots of times people want some sort of objective measurement of achievement. The Extension program offered a credential that you could put on your resume.”
Irving was impressed by the program’s practical approach, especially in core courses such as Drug Discovery, which was taught by an industry expert and supplemented with guest lectures by professionals working in the field.
“The difference between an Extension course and a course at an academic institution is that the instructors are actual working professionals,” Irving says. “These are all people from the industry who give you the background you need, but at the same time they tell you, practically speaking, what you need to know. This isn’t something you get as much in the academic world.”
Irving sees the Bioinformatics program as a great networking platform for biologists, statisticians, computer scientists and professionals of many disciplines. He sees Extension’s faculty and administration as a “family; if you have any questions at all, they’ll work with you.”
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