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King University News :: New Bioinformatics Degree Available Fall 2014 will Train Students for Cutting Edge Scientific Field

BRISTOL, Tenn., April 25, 2014 – Beginning fall 2014, King University students will have a new degree option available. A relatively new field in the sciences, Bioinformatics, will offer students a blending of biology and technology.

According to the National Institutes of Health Biomedical Information Science and Technology Initiative Consortium, Bioinformatics is defined as research, development, or application of computational tools and approaches for expanding the use of biological, medical, behavioral or health data, including those to acquire, store, organize, archive, analyze, or visualize such data.

“Essentially, Bioinformatics is the data processing and analysis portion of biology,” said Dr. Han Chuan Ong, associate professor of Biology and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at King. “The field of Bioinformatics, which has only been around for approximately 20 years, is truly cutting edge in biological science. This will be the first undergraduate Bioinformatics program in the state of Tennessee.”

Though Bioinformatics may be used in many different fields, it has truly taken off in the field of medicine. “This area of study is tied directly to genomics, which is, essentially, sequencing all the DNA in a person’s body,” said Ong. “If we can determine what a person’s genome is, we can understand better what makes them who they are. Each person’s DNA is different. The only instance where two or more person’s DNA is the same is in the case of identical siblings.”

In 2001, President Bill Clinton announced scientists had completed sequencing the human genome. At that time, the cost was approximately one billion dollars. “A little less than 15 years later, we are sequencing the entire human genome for as little as $5,000,” commented Ong. “The aim is, in the future, to be able to personalize medicine based on a person’s genome.”

In addition to utilizing genomic data for medical purposes, bioinformaticians are able to apply their expertise in a variety of fields including basic scientific inquiries, agriculture, and pharmaceuticals. Once the genome is mapped, a bioinformatician will process, analyze, and transcribe the data into usable information.

“Our goal is to create a workforce that is ready to go into the job market as a bioinformatician upon graduation from King,” said Ong. “Students would be immediately hirable rather than having to attend graduate school before they are able to achieve the qualifications necessary to be hired. Students may choose to extend their education to the graduate level, but they could do so while working in their field of expertise.”

Students who choose to major in Bioinformatics will study courses in biology, computer science, statistics, and programming along with upper-level mathematics.

“This degree program is an amalgamation of the technology side with natural science,” said Ong. “The program was developed in consultation with accomplished bioinformaticians in the field including a scientific director of research with Illumina, and a bioinformatician from Indiana University. There are few undergraduate programs in bioinformatics currently being offered across the United States. We are excited to bring this incredible opportunity to our students at King.”

For more information on the Bioinformatics program at King University contact Dr. Han Chuan Ong at hanchaunong@king.edu, 423.652.6007, or contact the Office of Admissions at 800.362.0014 or admissions@king.edu.

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King University is a Presbyterian, doctoral-level comprehensive university. Founded in 1867 as King College, the University offers more than 90 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in fields such as business, nursing, law, medical and health sciences, pharmacy, education, and humanities. Graduate programs are offered in business administration, education, and nursing. A number of research, off-campus learning opportunities, and travel destinations are also available. King University is a NCAA Division II and a Conference Carolinas member with 25 varsity sports. For more information about King University, visit www.king.edu. King University does not discriminate against academically qualified students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, or disability. King University is certified by SCHEV to operate locations in Virginia. For more information, contact the King University office at Southwest Virginia Community College, 309 College Road, Richlands, VA 24641.