Why Kazakhstan lacks scientists in genetics (VIDEO)

What must be done so that local scientists could work in the same conditions as world scientists and how to attract specialists in the sphere of bioinformatics and genetics, Head of the laboratory of bioinformatics and system biology "National Laboratory Astana" Ulykbek Kaipov told in an exclusive interview to the correspondent of IA
Astana city 08 January, 15:21

According to Ulykbek Kairov, the courses in the field of genetics and bioinformatics should be introduced in all Universities of the country.

"We need to start with a mass propaganda of a healthy lifestyle. Then we need to present that we have modern technologies. Genetics is a very important element in our life. If earlier it was difficult, unavailable, then today it is available to everyone. Any person can pass a genetic test at a certain stage of his life and obtain important information for himself and use it in the future. Therefore, all universities should introduce courses of genomics, modern biotechnology, bioinformatics", Kairov said.

He argues that now in many national universities, whether it is the Eurasian National University named after L.N.Gumilev or the Kazakh National University named after Al-Farabi on the basis of biological or biomedical faculty only lectures are read.

"The most important thing is to introduce courses on the basis of medical universities. Unfortunately, on the basis of the medical university, no one actively reads such courses and the students are not explained. That is, on the basis of the bachelor's degree, we should give introductory lectures, correctly develop courses. Then, on the basis of the Master's degree, they make the first steps in the laboratories, begin to conduct research, experiment. We also need to open more PhD programs, specifically related to genomics, bioinformatics. Then we will receive a continuous flow of scientific personnel who will be interested in this", the geneticist noted.

According to Ulykbek Kairov, we do not need to limit ourselves within Universities, but also mass events and their coverage should be organized.

"Here is the downside of the matter. We have few specialists in Kazakhstan: they exist, but few. Therefore, it is necessary to collect specialists together on the basis of the university. Let's say that in Astana we have 20-25 people who understand what it is. It is necessary to actively involve in medical schools such specialists genetics, genomics, bioinformatics for lecturing. Also, more events on television, in the media should appear, as well as simple websites should be created. There are many examples of how they work in the West. For example, in France there is the Museum of Science for Children. They explain from five years on simple pictures what the genetic code is, what DNA is, what it is needed for and how it is used in life", the speaker said.

At the same time, Ulykbek Kairov informed that the laboratory even receives pupils. On the base of the Nazarbayev University, the free courses for all young specialists, which are interested in bioinformatics, are held.

"At every stage, it seems to me, we need to popularize genetics in general. We, too, for our part are trying, we are holding free courses, we accept anyone who wants to engage in bioinformatics, analyzing data, educating students and schoolchildren in practice. In the summer, Kazakhstani students come to study abroad (for example, from Holland, Russia, England - IA) and in order to spend the summer time with use, they ask us to attend the laboratory. They, as a rule, often receive good reviews, and such students receive various scholarships for internships. This also helps a lot. They, on the base of our laboratory undergo practice and on the basis of the their first researches they obtain grants of the foreign funds and conduct further research on the base of foreign centers", he noted.

Ulykbek Kairov also shared the way to become the best professional worker in science as in genetics and bioinformatics.

"In order to engage in simple analysis of the genome, a person must have a certain level of skills: he must understand genetics, be a programmer or an IT-specialist to work with servers, run some analytical programs. He must also be, on the other hand, a biologist or a medic to understand what he will get at the end. Well, let's say, we started the mathematical method, analyzed, got some information, and something needs to be done with this information: that is, to understand how to apply it to the scientific data that the world has today", he added.

At the same time, the scientists told about his activity.

"My alma mater is the Kazakh National University. When I was studying at the time, there were a lot of good professors. I knew then that I should study bioinformatics. Then it was very difficult, there were no specialists, no base, no knowledge, no books even elementary in Russian. I understood that in order to engage in science, you need to go to the West, abroad and study there. After graduating from the Kazakh State University, I was invited to the Biotechnology Center. I note that there are also a lot of young, good specialists there. I was happened to work in France. There, the base is well. After, I was invited to the Nazarbayev University. Now, we expand our direction and write projects in order to attract young people and to give them the opportunity to work", U. Kairov said.

According to him, today to be only a biologists or IT-specialist is difficult and unprofitable: the universal work should be mastered.

"If you want to keep up with the times, then you need to be a bit of a medic, you need to understand IT-technologies and you need to understand biology. This is a complex process. If we do not begin to teach, show, give young people today, we simply will not catch up. And you need to move in this direction. There is the opportunity today if a person wants to engage in science. Previously, there was nothing, especially in the late 90's, when scientific institutions collapsed and researchers went to work not in the specialty, not related to science. And today we have a favorable environment for young people to come and study science. Yes, it is difficult. For example, my science has taken the path from the first day at the university to the defense of the thesis for 14 years. It's a time-consuming process, but it's worth it", Ulykbek Kairov concluded.

Akbota Kuzekbay