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Computational Biology SOP

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I am applying to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland and this is the SOP for the M.Sc. in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics option. Please give e your comments.


In the recent years there as has been an information explosion in the field of biological research and it is imperative that higher education institutes must create programs that train individuals in the field of biological data mining, high performance computing, data storage and security and to create and make available tools that would help professors and students in remote and moderately funded institutions to be a part of this exciting turn of events in the field of biology and especially research. With this in mind I am applying to the M.Sc. program in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics at the ETH Zurich.

I was originally a pure biology student with a focus on working on neurodegenerative diseases and to that end I completed two projects. My very first research project dealt with finding a relation between neurogenesis and anxiety in mouse hippocampus. In this project I became proficient in handling animals and working without supervision and also in developing my own tests based on hypothesis and literature review. After finishing this project I worked at the W. M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience, a part of Rutgers University, where I was a part of a group investigating the effect of L1 Adeno Associated Virus on the G93A mutation of the SOD1 gene. In this project I was tasked with running routine tests like DNA electrophoresis, cryo-sectioning, perfusions, animal handling and caring and also performing micro-surgeries on mice. Due to the high stakes nature of the project, mistakes could not be afforded and therefore all the tasks had to be done with a high degree of precision and accuracy. My hand work was lauded by my supervisor and the principal investigator.

Following this project, I applied to the Computational Biology and Biochemistry group at ETH Zurich to work as an intern one a project dealing with “Genetic Variation in Human Population”. In this project, the goal was to find tandem repeats in protein sequences and we used the publicly available data from the 1000 genomes project website. This data was indexed using a tab-delimiting program and then I set out to find the regions containing these repeats. The overall goal was to automate the process of finding such regions and I got to the point of creating the database necessary for the search. This project got me interested in the field of bioinformatics and since that time it has become my goal to attend the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics Master’s course at ETH Zurich.

At my home university I took courses in structural biology, data mining and basic python programming. These courses dealt with concepts like Hidden Markov Models, Neighbor Joining, UPGMA, libraries and read mapping. In order to further and broaden my interest in computational biology I came to ETH Zurich as an exchange student to do my Bachelor Thesis on “Image Processing of Medical Data” and I also took a course called “Concepts in Modern Genetics”.

Having studied at ETH Zürich for a semester and having being exposed to the high quality of classroom instruction and being involved in full time research, I have come to realize and appreciate the position that this institution has on the international platform. I hope that my research experience and my academics will allow me to be a part of this institution and I am looking forward to coming back to Zürich in September 2013 as a graduate student.

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