Iris Mestres, a first-year student of Bachelor’s Degree in Bioinformatics, explains how she chose this degree and turned passionate about this field she nearly didn’t know before starting her studies.
Interview with Mohammad Mahdi Hajimoradkhani
Mahdi is a student of BDBI. He comes from Iran and he chose first Barcelona and secondly Bioinformatics. Today he knows he made a good decision and explains how he feels about living in Barcelona and studying at ESCI-UPF.
Mohammad Mahdi Hajimoradkhani arrived in Barcelona when he was 18 looking for a place to live and study. Although he is good at Maths and Biology he felt terrified about programming. But now he knows that studying Bioinformatics in Barcelona was the best choice.
1. When did you come to Barcelona? And why did you choose this city?
I arrived in Barcelona in August 2018. I moved here from Budapest, Hungary, and moved to Barcelona for its geographic location, beautiful architecture and its tolerant, progressive community. Over time I have grown to appreciate many new things about Barcelona, like the efficient public transport system, the style and fashion and the fact that here you are free to be who you are as a person.
2. What do you think about living here? Was it difficult for you to get used to? In what sense?
I love living in Barcelona, to the point where I have grown attached to the city despite the many challenges I have had to face as a part of my decision. At first, it was very difficult being an 18 year old living on my own here and dealing with the ensuing responsibility, and I believe that the nightlife in Barcelona in combination with mental health struggles and freedom can at times make you lose focus on your education or “escape” your problems. With regards to the pandemic, the difficulties I have had with my lifestyle, sports and social life are like everyone else’s and I just wish we can all get through this together and help one another stay positive. Regardless of the hardships, since I found my friends and things that I enjoy doing in Barcelona, I’ve been glad that I chose this city.
3. When and how did you discover bioinformatics? It was “love at first sight”?
I discovered Bioinformatics when looking for degrees taught in English when I moved to Barcelona, and in fact my first thoughts about the subject were the opposite of “love at first sight”. I chose the subject as a backup option, and in my first few months I was TERRIFIED of anything to do with programming despite having a good foundation in Maths and Biology. However, as my programming skills improved and I understood the connections between the topics at the core of Bioinformatics, I fell in love with the subject due to its diverse, innovative solutions to core problems in Biology and healthcare administration and how rewarding the subject is for individuals who like to view one problem through several different lenses. Bioinformatics teaches you to train your mind to contextualise a problem, pick or develop complementary model(s) to extract information from, and to oversee the use of tools and implementations of these models in an abstract programming environment.
4. How did you discover BDBI in Barcelona? Was it easy for you to decide to come here?
I found the BDBI both through the internet and again when I was in the process of having my diploma and academic records verified and translated to the analogues used here. It was not an easy choice to make at first largely because the field is relatively new, and its interdisciplinary nature can be intimidating. You grow up being praised to be a doctor, engineer, social scientist and etc. so being a bioinformatician is something you often discover you enjoy rather than outright think you’d love. Having gone through the many stages of the course, at this point I feel happy with my choice to make Bioinformatics part of my life.
5. What do you want to do when you finish your Bachelor’s degree?
In the near future, I would love to work for a while to feel financially secure and then I would love to further my education with a Master’s degree. In the long term, I feel very motivated to build and develop a career in bioinformatics or its associated scientific fields, and to promote and facilitate scientific thought in society, as I believe the most fundamental factor to human growth is the establishment of truth; the scientific way of thought has been established to prove or disprove assertions of truth, and with the challenges society faces today from the different crises I think we scientists have an obligation to help others fight misinformation and lies.
6. Do you have any person that inspires you (in the science field)?
In the History of Science, two individuals inspire me the most on a personal level, with the first being Galileo Galilei for his determination and resolve in establishing the truth about the solar system through arguments based on powerful reason and logic (for the time) despite the opposition of the Church and as a result segments of society. The second individual who inspires me greatly is the mathematician John Nash, who throughout his life overcame great adversity with his mental health and particularly schizophrenia. John Nash went on to make significant contributions to science, particularly in certain areas of Mathematics with big applications in Economics.
7. What do you do in your spare time?
Since a very young age I have been doing martial arts, and when I moved to Barcelona I have focused primarily on Boxing. I find Boxing to be the perfect intersection between playing chess and playing a physically intense sport, and it’s a positive source of energy for my mental health, fitness and confidence. In general, I love all forms of competition, and before the pandemic you would be finding me unleashing my questionable dance moves every weekend.
8. What would you recommend to someone who wants to study Bioinformatics?
I feel like I could write an entire article about it but the single most important thing in Bioinformatics is patience. Even if you are putting in the hard work, everyone who enrols in bioinformatics comes from a different background which means it takes time to be strong enough in ALL the core subjects to fundamentally understand what you are doing. In fact, even in simple little tasks, it is important to always be calm and patient, as bioinformaticians have to often deal with topics from vastly different areas, use many different types of software, file formats and computational tools. In all of these cases you will have misunderstandings, errors and frustrating situations, but only through remaining calm and patient can you understand the solutions and preserve the most important thing: to enjoy your work!