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In today’s fast-paced, data-driven world, researchers need to have a good foundation in informatics to store, organize, process, and analyze growing amounts of data. However, not all degree programs offer such training. Obtaining training in informatics on your own can be a daunting task for both new and established researchers who have little informatics experience. Providing educational opportunities appropriate for various skill levels and that mesh with a full-time schedule can remove barriers and foster a collaborative, informatics-savvy community that is better equipped to push science forward.
To enhance informatics education in bioinformatics, VCUs Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research of- fers a complementary series of seminars and workshops. These short course offerings introduce attendees to bioinformatics concepts and applications, and provide hands-on experience using online Bioinformatics databases. Bioinformatics 101 (B101) is an 8-week long series of 1-hour seminars focused on introducing topics in bioinformatics related to Next Generation Sequencing (NGS). Lectures are application focused and include overviews of NGS technology, practical bioinformatics pipelines, and examples of how the technology can influence downstream bioinformatics analyses. Bioinformatics 102 (B102) is a 5-day, 2 hours per day workshop developed in collaboration with VCU Libraries that provides attendees with hands-on experience accessing and using public data repositories. Sessions include a brief lecture followed by hands-on exercises. A Certificate of Completion is awarded upon meeting certain criteria for either the 101 or 102 courses.
Bioinformatics 101 has been offered 3 times with a combined total of 246 registrants, and Bioinformatics 102 has been offered twice with a total of 78 registrants (limited to 30 per session per day). From course surveys, 82% (n=108) and 95% (n=47) of respondents gave B101 and B102 a positive rating, respectively. In addition, 89% of B101 respondents indicated their knowledge was improved, with 100% of B102 respondents indicating the same. A total of 84 and 33 certificates have been awarded for B101 and B102, respectively.
The Bioinformatics 101 and 102 courses have become highly anticipated across the university, and have gained the external attention of surrounding businesses and colleges. Registrants have diverse backgrounds including biological, clinical, computational, administrative, librarian, business, and others with a total of 77 departments across VCU and VCU Health represented. Due to this interest, Bioinformatics 101 began offering live online attendance to accommodate those who were unable to travel across campus, or who are attending from outside VCU. This past year, 50% of attendance was online indicating a growing need for flexible education opportunities in informatics.
Increasing researcher knowledge of Bioinformatics along with awareness of university resources for informatics support fosters an informatics-savvy research community that is empowered to take advantage of existing and new data sources in the pursuit of new insights and scientific discoveries for the betterment of human health. Future work will include the development of a more comprehensive educational framework by creating new and flexible learning opportunities that will make informatics education easy and convenient for our dedicated researchers.
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VCU Libraries Faculty and Staff Presentations