Confession Time

// July 9th, 2009 // Blog

Yesterday, I was informed that I had received the funding I'd need to accept the position that I mentioned in my last post. But, I am still a little scared to tell you what that position is exactly.

Ack… Okay.

I am going back to uni.

Yes, you may now spew out your beverage in shock and disgust, having learnt that I, Mehzabeen, existing holder of three degrees, will be returning to university later this year to attain yet another qualification.

But before you choke on the few drops of liquid that remain in your throat, please let me explain my decision!

A few weeks back, I posted a message asking for some career advice from anyone working in the field of Bioinformatics. For those of you who don't know, Bioinformatics is the “application of information technology to the field of molecular biology” (thank you Wikipedia). Māshā’Allāh, I already have plenty of experience in molecular biology thanks to my PhD – but I don't have the computing skills to get a job as a Bioinformatician.

That's where the degree I applied for comes in. It's a one year Masters course designed to give students the necessary training in programming, statistics and genetics they'd need to get hired. And apparently, I am not the only PhD graduate to apply for it, which makes me feel a lot better.

Believe me, going back to uni is the last thing I wanted to do, but in this regard, it's kind of inescapable.

However, I couldn't afford the tuition fees (approx. £4K), and no way was I going to ask my father for the money. That's why accepting a place on the course was conditional on the adminstration granting me a scholarship – which they now have, alhamdulillah.

So, why Bioinformatics?

Any of you who knows me well, knows that I have a penchant for all things computery (at least, on the software side of things). In fact, I clearly remember back in my undergrad days, lying on my bed, mulling over my decision to study Biology, thinking: “If I hadn't done this, I would have gone into computing”. At that point, I believed it was an 'either/or' situation. Even up till very recently, I thought the only way I could continue with a research career in Biology, was to return to the lab as a stressed out postdoc.

Thankfully, I was dead wrong. In recent years, thanks to the establishment of various genome sequencing projects and expression profiling techniques, there has been tremendous growth of opportunity in the informatics sector. There is a great demand for scientists with the required interdisciplinary skills to analyse the mountains of data being churned out by such research projects; I discover at least two new Bioinformatic positions in my feed reader every day. My hope is to get in on some of that action, inshā’Allāh.

I also envisage many advantages from a personal point of view. Being that the research I'll be doing is mainly computer based, theoretically, I could do much of it from home, making it way more family-friendly than working as a lab-based scientist. Plus, there are global employment opportunities.

Best of all, if Bioinformatics is indeed what I think it to be, it'll mean that I get to do what I love, in a way that I'd love to do it. Extreme job satisfaction ahoy, inshā’Allāh.

At the end of the day, I know it's just a job, and I don't wish to be distracted from the main purpose in life, to worship Allāh. However, I do believe that if I am not going to be a scholar of Islam, then this is the next best way to use whatever intelligence and skill the Creator has given me, in His service:

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “There is no disease that Allāh has created, except that He also has created its treatment.” [Bukhari]

That's why I went into research; to discover cures for medical ills. I knew I would never be MD material, so I chose Biology instead. However, I have it on good authority that medical research is actually harder than practising medicine on patients. So maybe it wasn't such a cop out, eh?

Anyway, confession complete. Be gentle with me please!

13 Responses to “Confession Time”

  1. amad says:

    this sounds fantastic..
    i can already see it… MM on the leading edge of bioinformatics with a post on Islamic bioinformatics by our own doc mashalah!

    great job… I am a FIRM believer in knowledge and education… knowledge can only make you stronger… because if it makes you weaker, than you weren’t on firm ground in the first place… hmm… nice quote for my first twitter “deep thought”!!

  2. iMuslim says:

    Amad bhai: always thinking about MM, haha. :) Not sure what kind of articles I could write, but you never know. The quote does sound deep. What’s your twitter ID?

  3. Organica says:

    Oh wow! I would have never guess my Zeebs would go back to school, but your mom assured me that you loved your studies!

    I pray that all goes well for you. It’s indeed the best of times to return to education and change or alter career paths during our unsettled economy.

    Would you be studying full-time? It would be great if you could get a part-time job to maintain those skills and have some income coming at the same time.

  4. shaz says:

    Oh wow indeed! well, my dear, i admire your intention for doing this and inshaAllah i hope you are tremendously successful.

  5. iMuslim says:

    @Organica: Yes, it’s full-time study. Alhamdulillah, the scholarship includes some spending money too, so I won’t need to work for that reason. Plus, the latter half of the course is research related (i.e., practical application of theoretical skills).

    However, saying that, I do need a job or something, to keep me going for the next few months, insha’Allah. So I am still on the hunt! :)

    @shaz: Ta babe… thanks for your support! Insha’Allah, one extra bonus for learning programming, is that I won’t be annoying you (as much) with all my code related questions! :D

  6. Sumera says:

    Congrats :D A bit late I know ~sorry~

  7. Farzeen says:

    Assalaamu’alaykum wa rahmatullah sis

    Congratulations! It looks like you have thought it out, and it sounds like a lovely option for you. I’m glad to hear about the scholarship and the acceptance. Keep working hard.. insha’Allah you’ll see the fruits of your efforts where it counts. All the best dear sister! :) Bi al-tawfiq, insha’Allah.

  8. iMuslim says:

    Wa ‘alaykum salam wa rahmatullah sister. Jazakillah khair for the support! :)

  9. Emina says:

    Dear sister,

    just wanted to tell you how similar I am to you, reading your posts…incredible!

    I wish you all the best!!!

  10. HalalBuzz says:

    So using your Mac in informatics?

  11. iMuslim says:

    @Emina: Thanks sis… Hope all is well with you, insha’Allah. :)

    @HB: No idea. I doubt it; I imagine most of the software is non-Mac.

  12. […] // October 5th, 2009 // Blog Today was Day 1 of my shiny, new Masters course, marking my first step towards a career shift into Bioinformatics, insha’Allah. For those currently scratching their heads in confusion: read my confession. […]

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