Biology at UQ

Jobs in STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – are booming. According to a recent report, STEM job placements are growing twice as fast as the rest of the economy.

Now more than ever, businesses require higher rates of innovation to stay competitive as the world’s advanced economies become knowledge-based and innovation-centred. Certain fields that require extremely specialised skills are offering excellent job opportunities as their complexity increases.

One such field is quantitative biology. Biology is more often associated with field-based, hands-on experimentation, but quantitative biology utilises mathematics, statistics and computational techniques to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems. By combining mathematics and traditional biological analyses – studying life and living organisms – quantitative biologists are securing highly sought-after jobs in innovative industries from agribusiness to personalised medicine.

A genome sequence map, displaying chromosome architecture and genetic sequencing – navigating such data is critical for many emerging jobs requiring skills in quantitative biology.

The University of Queensland, based in Brisbane, Australia, is working to upskill the next generation of quantitative biologists. The university, in the world’s top 50 tertiary institutions, has just introduced the Master of Quantitative Biology, providing students with the skills needed to supercharge their STEM career.

Quantitative biology expert, UQ’s Associate Professor Daniel Ortiz-Barrientos, said the Master’s program was a game-changer for students.

“This program is the first of its kind in Australia,” he said.

“The Master of Quantitative Biology integrates short foundational courses, like programming in biology, with intensive core courses, such as stochastic modelling, optimisation and computational methods in biology. This gives our students access to both theory and practical experience, being taught by our incredible team.

“We’ve also made sure that the flexible nature of the program creates exit points for students to enter into specialised careers. You can complete the equivalent of two years’ study in 18 months, or over three or four semesters.

UQ’s Master of Quantitative Biology students have the unique opportunity to mix practical training in biological sciences with mathematical and computational analysis.

“UQ is also ensuring that each one of these students becomes versed in ‘big data’ analyses. Areas like genetics or evolutionary science are data-heavy, and we’ve found that students – and employers – are always keen for more technical training to tackle big data challenges in biology.

“Students leave with coding skills that are essential to solve commonly encountered problems in gathering, handling, analysing and visualising biological data. This includes extensive knowledge of programming languages such as Unix/Linux, Python and R. These skills enable them to become proficient in navigating high performance computer platforms, as well as advanced spatial ecology tools such as remote sensing.

“Once they graduate, our students are able to join industries such as pharmaceutical, plant and animal biotech, statistical medicine and epidemiology, and create their own consultancy businesses in emerging job markets such as personalised medicine, biotechnology and agriculture. They have a bright future ahead – armed with key skills in an expanding job market.”

Master of Quantitative Biology students can go even further by completing a PhD. According to the Australian Government’s Office of the Chief Scientist, a PhD in biological sciences supercharges earning potential. In fact, PhD graduates in this space make an average of 2.7 times the amount of income compared to bachelor graduates. The statistics also revealed that 10 percent of biology graduates also end up starting their own businesses. It’s clear that opportunity awaits job seekers looking to merge the worlds of mathematics and biology.

For more information about studying a Master of Quantitative Biology at The University of Queensland, visit the UQ Future Students page.

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