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screen grab from a virtual labVirtual labs will give students hands-on opportunities to explore the bioinformatic-based analysis of structural biology.

Faculty member developing resource to provide hands-on experiences in bioinformatics

A seemingly endless stream of big data is pouring out of biological and life sciences research at a rate much faster than it can be analyzed. A UWindsor faculty member is developing a resource to help students take on bioinformatic careers in a field where demand for expertise outweighs the supply.

Zareen Amtul, who teaches core courses in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry’s Master of Medical Biotechnology (MMB) program, is developing a virtual laboratory module for research-driven bioinformatics exercise tutorials and tools. With graduate student and postgraduate partners, Dr. Amtul will share the module as an Open Educational Resource (OER) for others to use or adapt for their purposes.

The omnipresence of data is creating ample career opportunities in bioinformatics across multiple industries, she notes. Even academia is seeing an exponential uptick in bioinformatic career prospects, as the discipline itself is intensifying.

“MMB students don’t have a bridging opportunity available to narrow the gap between their biotechnological skillset and training for the inflated-in-demand bioinformatic data analysis work,” says Amtul.

She has secured an eCampus Ontario Virtual Learning Strategy (VLS) grant of $37,638 to create a set of bioinformatic activities to be incorporated into his capstone course on protein structure and function.

“These bioinformatic materials will be free and shared through the eCampusOntario Open Library,” says Mark Lubrick, a learning specialist in the Office of Open Learning who is working with Amtul.

“The rationale is to serve as a stimulus to students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers, to get them familiarized with scientific professions in data science and the academic training required to pursue them, and notably to increase their competencies to be able to take on the bioinformatic careers.”

Lubrick says open resources are likely to be better options than biochemistry textbooks that cannot keep pace with the rapidly exploding bioinformatics developments or data science.

“They will better prepare our students in undertaking bioinformatic scientific investigations or jobs and allow them to seize opportunities to become an effective part of the bioinformatic workforce,” he says.

More information about the VLS projects is available on the OOL website or by contacting openlearning@uwindsor.ca.