A hot area for a career combining science and IT

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A hot area for a career combining science and IT

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Jul 13, 2016 12:00 pm

Every now and again someone will post here about one particular job area that seems to be hot right now. (I've got a half-dozen projects at any time, and every one of those is hard to fill because there aren't enough people with that particular experience, whether it is a niche in industrial microbiology, a leadership position in the C-Suite, or a plant breeder, etc). But this new search I am working on shows me how there's a great deal of interest in the person who combines a science degree with studies in ICT.

ICT means Information and Communication Technologies, and it would refer to the development of ICT tools like web applications, mobile applications, and so forth. And the issue for employment (the reason why this is a hot area) is that there is a great demand for people with science degrees who can distill very technical information into user tools for their customers. The non-profit who is looking for the plant scientist who will also know ICT, to help strategize and develop the mobile platform for the farmer in the field . . . the Medical company with technology in public health, who wants to distill technical information into a platform for AIDS doctors in Africa . . . Anyone who can help the translation of heavy-technical input into an output in an ICT tool, they are hot right now!

ICT4D is another term. That's the development of these same tools, but for the international development arena (my example of the non-profit working with information for small farmers). If anyone has questions about this career track, post it here. I think there's a huge future for ICT and Science combo degrees.

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Re: A hot area for a career combining science and IT

Postby WG » Thu Jul 14, 2016 2:33 pm

This is really interesting to me. I have a qualification in management of information systems and worked in an IT related role prior to grad school.

For mobile or desktop application development, what programming languages should one know? I would also like to know how these kinds of jobs differ from positions that require a software engineer/programmer i.e. someone with a BSc. computer science. And if someone would like to break into this field what tips do you have?

Also, is there any overlap with "Data Science"? I ask this because there are programs or "boot camps" that now train people with Masters or PhD in science in Python, SQL etc. I realize that data science generally means statistical analysis and visualization of large data sets and not the development of apps or programs. However my thinking is that with some people that have this skillset might also know languages like Java.
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Re: A hot area for a career combining science and IT

Postby Dave Jensen » Fri Jul 15, 2016 12:07 pm

Hi WG, thanks for expressing interest.

I'm not qualified to talk about the programming languages, but I'll find someone to talk about that if I can. My searches have been for "big picture thinkers" who combine the science degree and who have enough knowledge of the requirements for new ICT methods that they can counsel and advise other scientists on how to distill heavy technical information into downstream tools.

Here's a good video from one ICT4D practitioner who describes the current situation where, in international agriculture (and of course it works in public health as well) the local people are using sensors and mobile applications to do some fairly sophisticated scientific analysis.

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Re: A hot area for a career combining science and IT

Postby Raphael Mueller » Thu Jul 21, 2016 10:49 am


I would be very interested to know more. I think however that combining science and IT can be very broad and would be glad to learn more.

What I have seen so far:

A) Lab IT: Research labs either develop solutions themselves or they buy them. Here I saw a few software development functions but also some scientists working. Keywords: LIMS, Compound Management.

B) Big-Data / Data Science / RWD: Here I don't much experience. I guess it is a mix of SAS programming for clinical trials or some sequencing/microarray/high content analysis.

C) Regulatory or Quality: Here I saw often positions for Document management systems or for regulatory submissons. Alot of paperwork is often related in those functions. So no wonder they try to digitize it.

D) Clinical Trials: Here Data Management Systems or IRT (technology for randomization, drug supply) or EDC (electronic data capture systems).

E) Manufacturing: Typically here you have MES (manufacturing execution system) where you have a lot of validation (CSV = computer system validation).

F) IVD solution and eHealth: Here you have alot of non-scientific companies working providing solutions for doctors and labs. But also soft-& hardware solution for PCR machines for examples. Highly regulated environment.

So I have been looking in those field a bit and worked in two of them for 1-2 years earlier. My personal opinion:
It can be highly stressful as most of the people don't value your effort and expect a perfect working system. Typically they think: "Can you not just program something / write some lines of code, this shouldn't take so long, right?" People are used to google and apps that just work flawlessly with the newest technology and this is not the case in those fields. You have a lot of testing and documentation in most of these fields if it is not a research system.

On the contrary the salary is not too bad and jobs are plenty, it was a good stepping stone to quit the lab. Additionally I personally think that there is actually little scientific knowledge that is used on a day to day basis. More project management skills and communication skills as some work is outsourced to cheaper-labor countries. Those are my personal 2 cents.

Would anyone have some article or experience to share? Which area are hot and what skill-set is necessary?

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