When interviewed, Irem Nurcan, who currently attends VCU as a Bioinformatics undergraduate, had this to say:
Why did you choose BNFO as a major?
Since high school, I wasn’t into only learning about biology. Coming from a strong biological background, and combining programming brings out the bioinformatics science. It is a very exciting science.
In highschool we have career fairs. My idea was to study Molecular Biology and Genetics in Turkey. When I came here, I realized I could combine them. I think my concentration will be in genomics.
What brought you to VCU?
I was thinking of getting my degree in computer science in Turkey, and then my dad moved the family to the United States and I thought about what to do for 6 months. For the last three years I was in Fairfax, VA, in community college.
Other Virginia colleges don’t teach bioinformatics at the undergraduate level. When you get your BS or MS, it will just be biology. I wanted to be a bioinformatics major.
What do you want to do with your degree?
I definitely want to go to graduate school, finish all my school right away. The thing that I’m interested in is genomic science, including pharmacogenomics. But I don’t want to go to medical school. My uncle is a doctor, and I saw what he does and there is a limit. I lost several family members to different diseases. I want to develop the tools that will help to predict the diseases that will harm people. Bioinformatics can be used to predict a disease before a disease starts based on your genes. You can prepare, be immune, doctors can save lives.
Derek Austin, who recently graduated from VCU with a Masters of Bioinformatics and currently pursuing his PhD at Columbia University, had the following to say:
I've always had an interest in genetics, stemming from my childhood when I daydreamed of a cucumber that smelled like a rose. Growing up, I was always on the computer, and bioinformatics was the perfect way to combine my interest in genomics with my talent for computers.
Why Bioinformatics at VCU?
Coming from the West End of Henrico County, 10 miles away, all of my friends ignored VCU as too local. However, I knew that the vibrant campus and the real city would be a vast change from my suburban lifestyle. Plus, I was eager to participate in the undergraduate program in bioinformatics, especially with the option to pursue the accelerated BS/MS, which I am now on the verge of completing. VCU has also offered me a fantastic variety of coursework, research opportunities, and study abroad experiences that I never would have had elsewhere.
What are your future plans now that you have graduated from VCU?
I am still pursuing my dream of innovative biological research, so I will be continuing my education at Columbia University's PhD program in Biomedical Informatics, starting in the Fall of 2008. From there, I can see a clear path for myself toward leading a research team investigating the mechanisms of human disease phenotypes.