BGSU to promote student study of bioinformatics

With the help of  $235,000 in funding from the Choose Ohio First Scholarship Program, BGSU will encourage students to study and use bioinformatics to solve important medical, biological and environmental problems.

Bioinformatics is “a new interdisciplinary field that merges computer science, mathematics, molecular biology and genetics to find ways to better understand and apply the vast amounts of biological data that is coming out of the genomics and proteomics projects to address important health and environmental issues,” explained Dr. Neocles Leontis, chemistry, who is involved in the program.

Modern technology allows scientists to quickly determine the entire DNA sequences of individual humans and many other organisms, including animals, plants and useful as well as harmful bacteria. Researchers are learning which genes cause the body to produce proteins, which cells they are located in and when the protein production occurs. They are also learning which genes play a role in disease and which mutations correlate with specific diseases, according to Leontis.

The scholarship program is designed to make Ohio more competitive within the science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medical (STEM) fields. The state’s goal is to increase the number of STEM graduates by more than 2,000 over the next five years.

BGSU’s funds are part of the $22.7 million that will be split among 21 Ohio colleges and universities, and will be disbursed over five years.

“In order for Ohio to be globally competitive for the jobs of the 21st century, we must increase the number of Ohioans with college degrees in critical areas of math, sciences, engineering and technology. Choose Ohio First helps us do just that,” Gov. Ted Strickland said.

BGSU has partnered with Ohio University and other state universities and colleges to form the Ohio Consortium for Bioinformatics, which will link researchers to offer teleconferencing and collaborative teaching.

The consortium hopes to attract nearly 345 STEM students over the next five years. Its first meeting will be held in conjunction with the Ohio Collaborative Conference on Bioinformatics in June.

April 21, 2008