[Baypiggies] Bioinformatics Python Programmer
dalke at dalkescientific.com
Wed Oct 7 01:49:57 CEST 2009
I know nothing about this particular job, but a few things about what
it's like to do software development for a bioinformatics/
cheminfomatics/structural biology group, so I thought I would add
some feedback given the other comments I've seen.
On Oct 6, 2009, at 3:36 AM, Glen Jarvis wrote:
> So, here are some basic questions to help you sort out, "should I
> even read on?"
What he's asked starts with high school biology and builds up to
undergrad microbiology/bioinformatics. What he's asking for is
someone who knows the basics of the bioinformatics. (If you noticed
that his questions show more a bioinformatics, vs. structural biology
slant, then you're definitely qualified. ;)
I've worked with people who have no biology/chemistry background when
entering this field as software developers. It can happen. But it's
rare. In general it's easier for a scientist to learn enough
programming than for a programmer to learn enough science. Without
the domain knowledge it's hard to even ask the right questions.
There are cases where specific abilities, like optimization, outweigh
knowing knowledge of the field, but this posting is obviously not
about one of them.
> What would work in our team, you may ask? Someone incredibly
> proactive and who won't be intimidated easily. For example, if a
> PhD told you they needed something to happen, described it
> graphically (what it should look like), but not understand any of
> that happen, would you get frustrated, or would you make a plan on
> your own and make that happen? How could you deal with the
> frustration if the PhD didn't understand what was taking so long
> because they're focused on the result instead of infrastructure,
> how would you address this proactively?
Those situations are very common, and he describes it well. It might
be common as well outside the sciences, but I don't have enough
experience in the wider world.
I had one of my clients say to me (humorously) when I was describing
the different technology solutions "you're saying things but all I
hear is a bunch of sounds."
This is part of the work I find fun, btw. Your customer doesn't want
to be involved in making the technology decisions, just figure out
what they want and get the work done.
> but write incredibly pristine python/django/jquery code, and do it
For some background on this in general (again, might have nothing to
do with this particular job) see the part where I said "easier to
teach a scientist to program"? Well, most of them don't program well.
They learn just enough to get the science done. They've spent ~6
years of graduate school, plus industry experience, to get where they
can do science. Not code.
> Are you willing to take an incredibly low salary (comparatively)
> because you're that interested in science, working for an very well
> known research facility, etc?
That's the tricky part for many people. When I got started in this
field as a software developer I was cautioned by a recruiter that the
wages were lower than in the general programming field. For one, why
should someone with an undergrad degree at best be paid a lot more
than someone with ~6 years of graduate school, plus industry experience?
(There's also something which has only happened to me a couple of
times in my career - looked down upon because I didn't have a PhD.
There's a cultural tradition I've heard of in some places where the
PhDs rule and everyone else is a bunch of lab monkeys. I've not come
across it; it might be more common in a wet lab environment. Then
again, most people assume I have a PhD.)
But there are people, like me, who like working with more physically
oriented data sets than working on, say, financial data or social
networks. People who just like science, and will take the pay cut.
It's also great fun to work with people who have absolutely no
problem in peering intently at data and spending hours trying to
figure something out. They want to do the things you're helping them
do, and you usually get quick feedback.
BTW, I'm available for consulting and contract programming in the
life sciences, and programming training so those scientists can be
more effective at doing their science ... but I charge pharma rates
and don't plan to be an employee. ;)
dalke at dalkescientific.com
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