Computer science health careers

New dimensions

By Lynnette Hoffman

Computer science health careers are at the frontier of exciting new ways to treat diseases using technology.

The trouble with treating cancer is most of the drugs don’t just kill the cancer cells. Treatments like chemotherapy destroy healthy cells too, causing terrible side effects such as hair loss, nausea and fatigue. But what if you could zero in on the target and leave the rest of the body unharmed? Computer science health careers are disrupting the way we’ve traditionally thought about disease and healthcare.

About 10 years ago, UK scientists discovered that a certain type of breast cancer responded to a class of drugs that doesn’t cause much harm to other parts of the body. Researchers at the University of Queensland (UQ) are now studying the phenomenon in detail using complex computer modelling techniques. Their goal is to find drugs that kill cancer cells selectively and are tolerated in the body.

“A computer science background gives a great foundation for modern careers across the health sciences,” says Mark Ragan who’s leading this research at UQ.

A digital approach

Jose Alvarado got a taste for how his IT skills could help improve people’s health with his final project for a Bachelor of Computer Science (Software Engineering) at Edith Cowan University.

Inspired by his grandmother who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, Jose teamed up with an IT engineer who had developed tests that measure changes in coordination and control over motor movements in patients with the disease. They developed the Parkinson iTest app, which helps patients monitor their condition and sends results to their doctor immediately.

At the University of Newcastle in NSW, geneticists and computer scientists are also teaming up to find genetic patterns associated with diseases. Using computers to work through a huge amount of clinical and molecular data, the researchers are working towards personalised medicine. This is where each patient’s treatment is tailored to fit his or her genetics.

Computer science health careers in data

Many experts say personalised treatments are the future for medicine. Mark predicts that research relying on “big data and big computing” will boom as we attempt to understand how molecular systems work together.

“It will involve close interactions among biologists, clinicians and computer science/IT people,” he says.

Get into CS + health!

Check out some of your study and work options…


Biostatisticians, bioinformatics and biomedical researchers, health economists,
clinical analysts, systems analysts, health sector IT project managers/business managers + more!

Bachelor of…

Information Systems/Health Sciences, Deakin University

Health Sciences/Mathematical & Computer Sciences, University of Adelaide

Sport Coaching & Exercise Science/Information Technology, University of Canberra

Bioinformatics, UNSW Australia

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