Bachelor of Science offers new major

Dr Qasim Ayub

The inroads made by sequencing of the reference human genome and subsequently of a large number of human beings and other species has been a remarkable scientific achievement of the past 15 years.

Through the sequencing of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), scientists have been able to understand normal genetic variation and how it leads to disabilities in some human beings as well as gain knowledge about the evolution of species.

Monash University Malaysia’s Bachelor of Science offers a new major: Genomics and Bioinformatics. The program is a three-year course that will expose students to the infinite possibilities that come from learning about genes and genomes through high-throughput sequencing and bioinformatics analyses.

“Genomics is the process of examining the complete genetic makeup of an individual, population, or species, by sequencing nucleic acids, the basic chemical units that they are made of,” explained Dr Qasim Ayub, Associate Professor of Genomics at School of Science, Monash University Malaysia.

Where genome sequencing and the subsequent release of results took years in the past, it can now be done in a matter of hours or days. As a result, there is a plethora of information that is released on a daily basis. This has necessitated the development of computational tools to assist researchers in data analysis.

Students who enrol into this program, not only learn about gene and genetics, but crucially they also learn to use tools to mine data efficiently and examine relationships between the sequences, or identify differences between them.

“Foundation of genomics and population genetics give you the theoretical foundations for the course, and then bioinformatics will give you the tools that will help you access the data,” added Dr Qasim.

Students pursuing this program will get to access the most up-to-date and sophisticated tools in the field of bioinformatics. The Genomics Facility at Monash University Malaysia is equipped with Illumina’s MiSeq and Oxford Nanopore Technologies MinION platforms, which represent the short and long read sequencing technologies, respectively, that are currently in use.

“We use these machines to sequence genomes, and use bioinformatic tools to understand the sequencing data. We can use tools to either map the sequences that are generated by these machines to a reference genome, such as the human reference genome, or assemble it from scratch, make sure it is reliable and subsequently examine the variation within the sequencing data to address biological questions,” said Dr Qasim.

Graduates of Monash University Malaysia’s BSc (Genomics and Bioinformatics) program will be very versatile. The variety of jobs available will provide students with an embarrassment of riches to choose their career paths from, and Dr Qasim drove home the point.

“Right now the limitation is that we don't have a wide array of expertise in bioinformatics. Furthermore, the techniques learned aren’t just confined to the field of biological sciences, but can be used in personalised medicine, computer sciences, banking, finance, and marketing, just to name a few,” he said.

The Harvard Business Review labelled data scientists as “the ‘sexiest’ job of the 21st century” and there is a growing demand for professionals who can manipulate large datasets to obtain useful insights from them.

For more information about the program at the School of Science, Monash University Malaysia, please visit