Information Science Receives over $260,000 Annually for its Support of the Bioinformatics Core of the Arkansas INBRE Program

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The Department of Information Science at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has received over $260,000 this year to continue its partnership with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).

This partnership supports the Bioinformatics Core of the Arkansas IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) Program. Awarded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), this grant is active for five years. The total funding for the five-year period is over $1.3 million.

The Bioinformatics Core supports students, faculty, and researchers throughout the state and region with technology, education, training, and services related to biomedical research.

Bioinformatics is a multidisciplinary field that focuses on the development of software, methods, and tools to interpret and analyze biological data such as genetic codes, proteins, and molecular structures.

The Bioinformatics Core primarily supports the joint UA Little Rock/UAMS Graduate Program in Bioinformatics. The graduate program began officially in 2004 directly from Arkansas INBRE funding, and offers both Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Bioinformatics.

The Bioinformatics Core also supports activities of the MidSouth Bioinformatics Center at UA Little Rock.  This center provides consulting services, computational resources, skills workshops, reference library, and online knowledge base to students, faculty, and researchers.

The center also provides graduate assistantships. Some of these assistantships are sponsored by Arkansas INBRE, the College of Engineering and Information Technology, and the UAMS College of Medicine.

Additionally, the Bioinformatics Core supports undergraduate faculty researchers sponsored by Arkansas INBRE who concentrate on bioinformatics research.

Dr. Liz Pierce, Chair of Information Science and Principal Investigator of the grant, is dedicated to providing opportunities to students in this field. “Today more than ever, Bioinformatics is critical for anyone interested in a career in the life sciences,” Dr. Pierce said.

“Whether it involves medicine, climate/environment, animals, plants, food, or forensics, these areas are generating genomic data at an astonishing rate.  Helping people to master the tools and techniques for working with this massive bio data is a critical goal of this grant.”

The center, through the Bioinformatics Core, provides technical and strategic support to the MidSouth Computational Biology and Bioinformatics Society, a regional society founded by UA Little Rock professor Dr. Steve Jennings.

Arkansas INBRE is funded by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences under the NIH Institutional Development Award Program. This program was established to broaden the geographic distribution of NIH funding for biomedical and behavioral research. Currently, this program supports INBRE programs in 23 states and Puerto Rico.

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