Daniel Paulino

Cracking the code

Studying computing science at SFU can open doors to new and exciting fields you never knew existed.

Take Daniel Paulino, a joint major in computing science and molecular biology, who had never heard of a field called bioinformatics until he started at SFU. Now he’s on an eight-month co-op placement with the Genome Sciences Centre, a leading international centre for genomics and bioinformatics research.

On the cutting edge of biology and IT, bioinformatics uses technology to access information stored in biological data. “I work with massive datasets as part of the high-performance computing team,” explains Daniel.

“We’re responsible for the DNA assembler software, programming with C++ and Perl. We sequence the DNA and reconstruct it, with the goal of finding genetic codes. It’s really cool.”

It’s also really high impact. Researchers at the centre examine thousands of genes in an effort to advance knowledge about cancer and other diseases and improve therapeutic approaches that could help save lives.

Chance discovery

Daniel discovered his love for computing science almost by accident. While working towards a B.Sc. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (MBB), he selected two required courses in computing science. He was instantly hooked.

“I love problem solving, and I realized programming could be a vehicle to express my creativity,” he says.

A co-op coordinator told him about the bioinformatics program, which fused his passion for all things molecular with his burgeoning interest in computing science.

“The coordinator actually pitched the Genome Sciences Centre as a common employer for co-op students,” says Daniel. “And what do you know, a year later I’m doing a placement here.”

Preparing for the job market

The experience offered by co-op is hugely important to help prepare students for the workplace, says Daniel.

“Co-op gives you a new appreciation for the subject and allows you to apply the knowledge you gain from class,” he says, adding that it helps students hone their skills in a “safe environment.”

And as the demand for technology grows, so does the need for people with the specialist knowledge needed to create, develop and maintain it.

“SFU’s computing science program sets you up for good job opportunities in the booming computing science market, which is key,” says Daniel.