Alum brings next-gen sequence analysis tools to the classroom

In the midst of a pandemic, there is data—a lot of it—and a high demand for people who know how to grapple with the enormity of information.

Paul Saunders, Ph.D., biotechnologist and UCSC Instructor

“It takes the right tools,” says Paul Saunders, a biotechnology consultant with a lengthy resume in drug development, pharmacology, and biochemistry R&D.

To make those tools accessible to the aspiring bioinformatician, Saunders is launching Next-Gen Sequence Analysis Tools—A Hands-On Approach, a new UCSC Silicon Valley Extension introductory course for aspiring bioinformaticians. Curriculum focuses on providing students with hands-on experience with freeware and numerous algorithms available by public access in the cloud. 

“The course is for the professional who wants a quick introduction to bioinformatics sequencing tools so they can put them to work solving the problems of the day,” Saunders says. “With the right tools you can make complex biological sequence analyses accessible to everyone.”

A Career Turn into Bioinformatics

For Saunders, who has held senior scientist and chief technological officer positions, bioinformatics was the next step in a decades-long career. More than 25 years after earning a doctorate in pharmacology and toxicology, he returned to school to earn a certificate in the UCSC Silicon Valley Extension Bioinformatics program. He went on to earn a Genomic Data Science certificate from Johns Hopkins University.

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Janani Rangarajan, MS, a QA statistical data analyst at Gilead Sciences, instructor and chair of the Bioinformatics certificate program.

“I was amazed at his knowledge and interest in the subject,” says Janani Rangarajan, a statistical data analyst at Gilead Sciences, instructor, and chair of the UCSC Bioinformatics certificate program.

“We discussed the latest tools in bioinformatics, stayed in touch, and helped each other out.” Rangarajan asked him to come teach for UCSC Silicon Valley. “I couldn’t think of a better person to teach next-gen sequence analysis.”

Next-Gen Sequencing Job Outlook

Next-gen sequencing is a great skill for technical and scientific positions in the molecular biology field. Organizations want people who can analyze large sets of biological data and produce significant conclusions from it so that effective vaccines and cures can be discovered.

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The global single-cell genome sequencing market is expected to show tremendous growth by 2027, according to Data Bridge Market Research.

An international team of scientists is suggesting that next-generation sequencing (NGS) be used to track 2019-nCoV as it grows and spreads, according to FierceBiotech.

Rising chronic diseases among population is the major factor for the growth of this market, according to Data Bridge Market Research, which reports that the global single-cell genome sequencing market is expected to grow 14.71 percent between 2019 and 2026.

“Experience with analytical tools is considered a plus on job applications,” Saunders says.

New Bioinformatics Courses on the Horizon

Next-Gen Sequence Analysis Tools—A Hands-On Approach, one of four core courses in the certificate program, is only one of several recent updates to the 18-unit Bioinformatics program.

“This course is designed to make new bioinformaticians aware of the kinds of sequence analysis tools available to them and how they are used,” Rangarajan says. “It’s for the professional who likes biology and wants to break into the field.”

Other new courses in the Bioinformatics certificate program include:


Next-Gen Sequencing Tools Overview

Saunders provides an overview of tools and resources in this recording from a week-long Bioinformatics for Beginners webinar series in spring 2020.

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