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Maybe you can stay in school forever. The extension program at University of California, Santa Cruz (located near Silicon Valley) is doing its part to make it possible.

According to Bettina Oelke, director of applied and natural sciences at UCSC Extension, “We got an overwhelming desire from local industries in our area for a [bioinformatics] program to train their employees.” After a year of rigorous planning, UCSC opened its bioinformatics certificate program in January 2000. Students are professional scientists who may take the full program (18 to 24 months) or take a class here or there to stay up-to-date in the field.

Approximately 100 students are enrolled in the bioinformatics courses. Of these, 40 percent
already have PhDs in science or computer science; 30 percent have a master’s; and another 30 percent have a bachelor’s. “The program was developed to be useful to both the developer of bioinformatics tools or the users of the tools,” Oelke says.

The faculty includes eight instructors, all of whom have PhDs and work in the industry. Members of the program’s advisory board hail from Affymetrix, Celera, DoubleTwist, Incyte, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and David Haussler’s UCSC lab, among others.

The bioinformatics program recently won the coveted outstanding credit program award from the University Continuing Education Association.

Oelke says at the end of this summer the program will launch a new series of short, highly focused courses covering topics such as microarray data analysis and ultrafast database searches.

— Meredith Salisbury

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