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Introduction to Bioinformatics

Basic concepts of bioinformatics and molecular biology

Topic: Data
Janani Rangarajan

Bioinformatics is a broad scientific research field that combines biology, computer science, data science, and statistics to drive the analysis of vast amounts of data, including that related to the study of DNA, RNA, and proteins. Bioinformatics uses high-performance computing to assemble genomic data and understand gene function and answer biological questions. And demand for bioinformatics training is only increasing, as more and more life scientists are generating and using data produced by high-throughput methodologies.

Expert Janani Rangarajan takes you through the fundamental concepts of molecular biology. In just three hours, you’ll get hands-on with freely available bioinformatics databases and tools using Sars-CoV-2 and cancer data, learn how to do basic sequence alignment, and explore the different types of mutations and variants that are linked to genetic diseases.

What you'll learn-and how you can apply it

By the end of this live online course, you’ll understand:

  • The subspecialities of bioinformatics
  • Sequence alignment
  • The basics of molecular biology
  • Publicly available databases and tools
  • Single nucleotide polymorphisms and genome-wide association studies

And you’ll be able to:

  • Explore the breadth and depth of the bioinformatics field
  • Make sense of basic molecular biology terms
  • Access freely available databases and tools
  • Do basic sequence alignment

This training course is for you because...

  • You’re a programmer who wants to learn about molecular biology and bioinformatics.
  • You’re a biologist who wants to get a taste of the bioinformatics field.
  • You’re considering switching careers.
  • You’re interested in taking up bioinformatics projects and want to understand the basic concepts of the field.


Recommended follow-up:

About your instructor

  • Janani Rangarajan is the chair of the Bioinformatics Certificate program at UCSC Silicon Valley Extension and a statistical data analyst at Azzur Group/Gilead Sciences, where she supports the Quality Risk Management Department. Previously, she was a bioinformatics analyst at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, a statistical analyst and programmer at Northwestern University, and a researcher and data analyst at the Scripps Research Institute, where she designed and produced custom DNA, peptide, and carbohydrate arrays. Janani has a graduate degree in bioinformatics and extensive experience with bioinformatics tools, databases, and methods.


The timeframes are only estimates and may vary according to how the class is progressing

Introduction to bioinformatics (55 minutes)

  • Presentation: Introduction to bioinformatics; the Human Genome Project; different types of mutations
  • Hands-on exercise: Download the Sars-CoV-2 reference genome from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) database; do BLAST to compare sequence similarity with bat RaTG13 CoV; use ClustalW and Clustal Omega for multiple sequence alignment
  • Q&A
  • Break (5 minutes)

Introduction to molecular biology (55 minutes)

  • Presentation: DNA, RNA, and protein—the central dogma; transcription and translation; mutation; gene structure and control; tree of life and evolution; protein structure
  • Hands-on exercise: Analyze the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations and their link to cancer
  • Q&A
  • Break (5 minutes)

Sequence alignment (50 minutes)

  • Presentation: Introduction to sequence alignments; scoring alignments; substitution matrices; gaps; substitution matrices; microarrays; gene expression Demonstration: Use the UCSC Genome browser; build a phylogenetic tree; use the dbSNP database, Protein Data Bank (PDB), and UniProt

Wrap-up and Q&A (10 minutes)