On the 16th of February 2015, three Masters students from Africa Centre were sent to the University of Western Cape (UWC), Cape Town, to partake in the Bioinformatics Support Platform Introduction to Bioinformatics Course 2015. Sthembiso Msweli, Zandile Sibisi and Megan Druce are second year Masters students of Africa Centre (UKZN), who fall under the MRC Flagship Project. Each student is involved in different projects, although each is related to HIV.
The Bioinformatics course ran from the 16th of February until the 2nd of April 2015 and was orchestrated by the South African National Bioinformatics Institute (SANBI). During this time we were exposed to various Bioinformatics tools and techniques. These included Python and BioPython programming, database construction using SQL and SQLite, Phylogenetic analysis, gene annotation, Next-Generation Sequencing analysis using tools like Galaxy and EMBOSS, and Biostatistics using RStudio. Although limited to a time-constraint of seven weeks, this course was well planned and we were able to grasp the basic principles of each technique taught. Throughout the course period we received training in Python programming, as well as navigating the terminal in a Linux-based environment. Although seven weeks is not long enough to become an expert in any one of these techniques, we feel we came away with a much stronger Bioinformatics background and are confident enough to carry out simple computational biology tasks.
Overall, we were impressed with the course and SANBI. SANBI is one of the few core Bioinformatics research institutes in South Africa and definitely one of the best. They offer numerous Bioinformatics courses and studentships and are proficient in cutting-edge Bioinformatics techniques. They are well versed in what is new in the Bioinformatics world and offer unique services to research institutes in South Africa and around the world.
It was an honor and great experience to be chosen to participate in this course. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Cape Town and interacting with other students involved in Bioinformatics-related fields. A special thanks to Peter van Heusden for coordinating the course and for being an approachable and interesting lecturer. We would also like to thank our supervisor, Prof. Tulio de Oliveira, for sending us on this course and encouraging our growth as scientists. We hope to do Africa Centre proud by using our newly acquired skills in the future!