Home AgriSETA AgriSETA Learner Connect: Meet a bioinformatician

AgriSETA Learner Connect: Meet a bioinformatician

Godwin Mafireyi combines computer programming with genetics to make better seeds for our farmers

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Do you like to solve maths problems and are you excited about computer coding? Maybe you would like to work in agriculture as a bioinformatician.

Godwin Mafireyi (34) loves his job as bioinformatician at a seed company. He believes that this can be a very interesting and fulfilling career choice, particularly if you are patient and like solving problems. “My main goal is to assist a team of scientist in producing superior seed varieties”.

Using a combination of biology and computer science he enjoys finding solutions to real life biological problems. Working with the programming language python (generally used for many different things including web development and some video games) he analyses DNA sequencing data to identify the genes that can make plants stronger and offer resistance to diseases. “It brings joy knowing you have a hand in making sure the nation is fed”, Mafirey says.

Start preparing for a bioinformatics career early, even before university, is his advice to young learners. “One way to do that is to enrol for free online coding classes and coding bootcamps to get started with the programming side of bioinformatics”, he says. Mafireyi stresses that you should only consider bioinformatics if you love or can tolerate being in front of a computer for long hours.

If this career story appeals to you then read below to find out more and about getting involved. Over the next few weeks we will feature many more jobs to choose from in the agri sector on Food for Mzansi and 19 radio stations all over the country.

Ok, now it’s over to Godwin Mafireyi (34), bioinformatician at Starke Ayres:

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1Could you sum up your job for us? As a bioinformatician I use a combination of biology, particularly genetics, and computer science and computer programming to solve real life biological problems. For instance, I use a python program to analyse DNA sequencing data to identify genes responsible for disease resistance.

2So, what does the day-to-day of your job entail? Sitting in front of a computer for long hours, writing code and using software programs to analyse biological data. Communicating the results to plant breeders, biotechnologists and pathologists to help make data driven decisions. The main goal is to assist a team of scientist in producing superior seed varieties.

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What qualification do you need for this career? You will need to get an understanding of both genetics and computer science.

4What are the character traits you need to be great at your job? You need to have some interest in solving analytical problems and a lot of patience. Dealing with code and computer programs needs a lot of patience and careful attention to detail.

5What subjects do I need to become a bioinformaticianMathematics and biological sciences. Computer science will be a great advantage.

6What do you love about agriculture as a space to work in? Knowing you are contributing to the production of high-quality seeds that farmers can trust gives me a sense of satisfaction. It brings joy knowing you have a hand in making sure the nation is fed.

7Don’t be modest, tell us about your proudest career moments? Getting an award for the breakthrough in research for discovering the location of one of the virus resistant genes.

8What do you do when you’re not at work? Like most programmers, coding is both a hobby and work. So, at home I split my time between solving interesting coding challenges and spending time with family.

9Any advice for young people who are inspired by your career story here on AgriSETA Learner Connect? Bioinformatics can be a very interesting and fulfilling career choice, especially if you are a patient individual who likes problem solving. It is advisable to start preparing for a bioinformatics career early, even before university. One way to do that is to enrol for free online coding classes and coding bootcamps to get started with the programming side of bioinformatics. Also, only consider bioinformatics if you love or can tolerate being in front of a computer for long hours.

10Where can I study to become a bioinformaticianThere are both undergraduate and postgraduate programs for bioinformatics in various universities in South Africa, e.g. University of Pretoria, the University of Witwatersrand, Rhodes University and the University of Stellenbosch.

How to listen to AgriSETA Learner Connect:

Option 1: Click here to listen on Spotify (all mobile and other devices).
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Catch AgriSETA Learner Connect on these radio stations:

  1. Waterberg Stereo: Bela Bela, Brits, Naboomspruit, Pietersburg, Pretoria, Thabazimbi, Tzaneen  – 104.9 FM
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  8. Wild Coast FM: East London – 98.6 FM
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  11. Eden FM: Hessequa, Kannaland, Karoo, Oudtshoorn, Plettenbergbaai, Riversdale, Uniondale – 93.8 FM
  12. Radio Overberg: Bredasdorp – 98.4 FM
  13. Caledon FM: Caledon – 89.3 FM
  14. Whale Coast FM: Hermanus – 96.0 FM
  15. West Coast FM: Vredenburg – 92.3 FM
  16. Lara FM: Springbok – 91.6 FM
  17. NFM: Okiep – 98.1 FM
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Staff Reporter
Staff Reporter
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