Biology and Computing
"What kind of research in our lab does not involve the use of computers? Practically none."
-Professor Mark Schlissel, University of California, Berkeley.
It is fair to say that almost everyone in the United States recognizes the great increase in computer technology within the past ten years. A direct result of this is the augmentation of our ability to perform scientific research. Perhaps the most noticeable improvement in research has been in the area of genetics, where the technological boom of the late 1990's and early 2000's has allowed us to perform research in this field quicker and cheaper than ever imagined. This has allowed geneticists to publish discoveries that were formerly thought to be impossible.
Anyone who walks into a laboratory in the field of genetics or genomics would immediately notice that these laboratories have many computers on at all times. Pracitcally half the work in genetic research is done on computers. While some data is collected through laboratory techniques, most data interpretation and organization is done on computers. Computers allow fast and cheap processing of data, enabling researchers to collect massive amounts of data and interpret them in a very short period of time.
Large scale projects in genetics requires for this to be true, as the amount of data that is involved in any genetic research is enormous. Without the use of modern computing power, the collection and interpretation of such data would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. This has been clearly shown in the history of genetic research, particularly in the Human Genome Project. The outcomes of two contrasting approaches to sequencing the entire human genome proves the importance of computers in the field of modern genetics research. In addition, analysis and utilization of the data collected from this project requires heavy computing power to make use of information gathered from projects such as the Human Genome Project. Without the recent technology boom, collection of genetic data would be extremely difficult, and their uses extremely limited.
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