The year 2013 was a busy but blessed year for me. I registered for a one year masters by research and coursework in the Research Unit in Bioinformatics (RUBi) through a Rhodes university and South African National Research Foundation (NRF) research scholarship. Rhodes is a leading research university in South Africa located in Grahamstown–a small town in the Eastern Cape.
RUBi is a young, dynamic, fast growing and enthusiastic research unit in the department of Biochemistry and Microbiology. It hosts students pursuing masters and PhD.
Depending on the research interests, students get supervisors from the Departments of Biochemistry, Chemistry, Computer Science, Mathematics and Statistics.
The coursework runs from February to June during which 10 courses are covered. The courses for 2013 included:
- Structural Bioinformatics
- Comparative genomics
- Mathematical programming
- Neural Networks
- Introduction to Linux
- Basic mathematics
- Python programming
- Basic genomics
They are very practical with each being accompanied by a mini-project. This prepares the students for the final research project and thesis writing. This was hectic but, I got to enjoy each of the courses offered. The lecturers were great and my colleagues (Faya, Abdul and Vuyani) fun and supportive.
Research runs concurrently with the coursework but starts officially in July with proposal presentations. The projects may involve modelling studies, transcription factor research, molecular dynamics, database and software development.
My thesis was titled; “Analysis of transcription factor binding specificity using ChIP-seq data”. This was a comparative study of motif enrichment in cancer versus non-cancer cell lines with special focus on chronic myeloid leukemia. Professor Philip Machanick from Computer science department was my supervisor.
The fun-filled MSc studies culminated to graduating on 11th April 2014 with distinction.
This was a great learning experience and would recommend anyone with an interest in Bioinformatics to RUBi.