The Mentorship Spot
Biomedical Computing at Queens
Updated: Jul 30, 2020
By Mackenzie Sharp
Hi my name is Mackenzie Sharp and I just finished my second year of honours computing with a specialization in biomedical computing at Queen’s University in Kingston. My program is incredibly unique because it allows for you to get a computing degree, while also getting all of the premed prerequisite courses. It is a very intense course plan which includes most of the life sciences courses while also completing all of the core classes for computing. Interesting courses that are unique to this program are computer surgery and bioinformatics.
The community within my program is very close knit. When I started in first year there were approximately 14 students in the same plan as myself, and finishing second year I only know three other students. This degree allows you to become friends with all of the students in the school of computing, which is already a small faculty, but also creates tight friendships with those in your subplan because there are so few of us. You are also exposed to all of the life sciences classes and make friends in labs and tutorials with people who are also interested in medical school if that is what you want to do after graduation. The school of computing has tons of fun workshops and events for students to get to know one another and all of the professors are extremely helpful. Also the computing students organization helps organize tutorials and fun events to help students with hard courses or stress relief. These events have been extremely beneficial to me and have allowed me to meet people with similar classes and interests!
This program sets you up for many pathways. I love this program because it allows for you to learn all of the material to write the MCAT and get all the prerequisites for medical school but it also teaches you all about computing so that if you find that medical school is not for you (especially considering the slim acceptance rate) you can still apply for any computing jobs after graduation. You take all the same core classes as any other computing major so you can go into software development, game design, analytical computing, or any other field of computing that you are interested in following graduation if you find that is what you want to do. Having a computing degree is also very helpful for finding student jobs, I have worked for both years that I have been in school, running websites and course pages for different faculties. Both of these jobs I got because of the knowledge I have learned in my computing courses. These jobs also allow for you to determine if you could see yourself in a full time computing career. This program is extremely specialized and with masters work it could lead to a career in computer surgery or diagnostic imaging, specifically if you train at the PERK lab on campus after graduation. Other options that I have considered with my degree are that you could follow this degree with a collaborative masters in biomedical engineering from many intuitions and then write the P-eng test, which would allow you to work in biomedical engineering without paying four years of engineering tuition. During my classes, I really loved biochemistry which I took this year. Because of this, I found that I could also do a masters in biochemistry at certain schools because I would have all of the prerequisites. That is what I love about this program, it offers so many options for you post-graduation.
This program is extremely relevant to the future job market as the future is in computing. Everything is becoming automated which means everything has to be programmed. More and more companies are hiring computer scientists and software developers. Technology also is the future of medicine. With how much information we can extract and store now, genomic analysis is vital to the healthcare industry. Personalized medicine is the future which would not be possible with bioinformaticians doing genomic analysis. Diagnostics is changing as we can now use microscopic camera inside the body. The ability to visualize gene transcripts and predict which ones are being expressed at a certain time using AI is something that is being used as epigenetics is being looked at more than ever. This is a very specialized program but you can also use this degree in a more generalized way if you want to go into a software development job as you have all the knowledge of algorithms and data structures. You can also go into the healthcare industry or research, both of which are being expected to be hiring in response to coronavirus to prevent this from happening again, or to the same degree.
One thing I wish I knew before entering first year is that because of how specialized this program is there is not much flexibility in terms of electives. Also because you are taking courses from computing and the life sciences courses, some of them overlap or fill up which may set you back some time requiring you to take a summer course. It is also almost impossible to go on exchange because of how specialized the courses are. Lastly, you do not need to have any knowledge of computer science or biology, or chemistry going into this program. I took computing in high school and did all of the science courses but some of the people in my program have never taken computing in their life and did not know some of the sciences we were taking in first year and they took the introductory courses in first year and caught up in second year.
I have really enjoyed my experience in this program and would love to see more people consider it as an option! If you have any questions regarding it please feel free to message me on Facebook or email me email@example.com.
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