I am a university level student of Computer Science. I like to know what really differentiates Bioinformatics from Computational Biology in terms of the core area of study and the nature of subjects and curriculum. In addition, which discipline is more Math/Stats oriented or in other words which one requires sound foundation and skills in Maths and Statistics and what level of Math/Stats is desired?

I am including these links here so that everyone can look into the right definitions of these interdisciplinary fields of study:

  1. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioinformatics

  2. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computational_biology

  3. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathematical_and_theoretical_biology

Looking forward to professional academic information and advice. Thank you

closed as off-topic by aparente001, Wrzlprmft, Enthusiastic Engineer, Brian Borchers, David Richerby Oct 8 '16 at 19:24

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is too specific to the particular field. – aparente001 Oct 8 '16 at 5:33
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    @aparente001 - I think this is worth re-opening. This addresses the boundaries of fields that cross many different department/disciplinary areas, so it wouldn't necessarily be appropriate in any particular field's StackExchange. I think it also addresses "Requirements and expectations of academicians" pretty clearly - OP wants to know why something would be considered in one field or another, which seems like the culture questions academia.stackexchange is good for. – AJK Oct 10 '16 at 7:07

The distinction between the two is not really clear.

One popular way of describing the difference is that while both try to use computational tools to understand biology, in computational biology the focus is on the biological question, and in bioinformatics the focus is on the computational tool. So for computational biology research, the usefulness of a tool will be measured by the amount of insight it sheds on the biological problem at hand. In bioinformatic research, the usefulness of a tool will be measured by how broadly it is applicable, how efficient it is, and how well it solves the computational problem.


I just Googled computational biology vs bioinformatics and the first result says something along the same lines.

  • +1 and I retracted my close vote because of this useful answer. – scaaahu Oct 8 '16 at 14:56

I often see the word Bioinformatics more related to DNA and sequencing than Computational Biology. It is more descriptive.
Computational Biology seems more used when referring to proteins structure, interactions or drug design. It is usually more guided.

In Wikipedia both terms are synonymous.


Almost everyone agrees that Bioinformatics and Computational Biology have different definitions, but almost no one agrees on what those definitions are.

  • Why is that? Are these too disciplines quite overlapping over each other? If yes, then why do we have 2 different names for the same study discipline? – Maxood Oct 8 '16 at 10:13
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    Because there are clearly different kinds of people who work on biological data, but categorisation is tough. Some are better at Biology, some are good at reading program manuals and stringing together pipelines, others are better at programming, others only can do the algorithm design but not the implementation. And obviously some fall into multiple categories. But at the end of the day, how dare you call me an X when i'm clearly a different, unique, and special Y. – Wetlab Walter Oct 8 '16 at 15:43

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