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Augustana is home to South Dakota's first bioinformatics program

Students working in a lab at Augustana University.
Augustana University
Students will have the opportunity to major or minor in bioinformatics starting this fall.

Augustana University is launching the state’s first bioinformatics program, the university announced this week.

Bioinformatics is the application of computational tools to biology.

Dr. Carrie Olson-Manning is an associate professor of biology and bioinformatics program coordinator. She first suggested a bioinformatics program in 2016.

"If they [students] want to get a master's or a PhD, they really need those bioinformatics skills. But at the time I was assured by many many people that you know, people don't know what bioinformatics is," said Olson-Manning. "Now we know that bioinformatics is entering the public lexicon. And so the term bioinformatics is something that students are searching for and that's being put into job descriptions."

She said there is a growing demand for bioinformatics majors in South Dakota.

For example, both Sanford Imagenetics and The Avera Institute for Human Genetics are looking to hire people who have studied bioinformatics.

"There's just a lot of biotech in the in the area and what they're finding is that they have to hire biometricians who are out of state and then those people don't stay, and so we need some like homegrown bioinformatics majors so that we can start to fill that need," said Olson-Manning.

Students in the program will take a variety of classes including biology, computer science, mathematics and chemistry.

Augustana will also be the only university in the region to require data science and artificial intelligence courses, according to a press release from the university.

Bioinformatics will be offered as both a major and a minor starting this fall.

Madeline Grabow is a South Dakota Public Broadcasting intern based in Sioux Falls. She is a sophomore at Georgetown University studying international politics.