Computational Biology

Summer Pre-College Computational Biology

Biological and medical research have become fully-fledged computational disciplines. Tomorrow's life scientists will need deep knowledge of not only the laboratory techniques for generating experimental data but also the rigorous computational techniques necessary to analyze and model these data.  

The three-week Pre-College Program in Computational Biology offers an unparalleled experience for high school students by providing extensive training in both cutting-edge laboratory experiments to generate biological data and the computational analysis of the data that these experiments generate. Our hope is to recruit and inspire a new generation of scientifically-minded students who will enter their undergraduate years with cutting-edge experience in an age-old scientific field. The program runs from June 29 - July 19, 2019.


The Experience

The easiest way to illustrate how our program will integrate laboratory and computational work is with example modules. In particular, we plan to guide our students through end-to-end genomic sequencing experiments.

After sampling water from one of Pittsburgh’s three rivers, students will isolate the bacterial DNA from the water and break the DNA strands into millions of tiny fragments that are then sequenced. Students will then build algorithms to identify the species of microorganisms present in the water samples and construct an evolutionary tree determining how they've evolved. Furthermore, we'll explore genome sequencing with our students using a much larger (mystery) eukaryotic species. To do so, students will also build algorithms to stitch together these fragments into the organism's contiguous genome that we can then compare to other organisms. 

Previous exposure in computational biology isn't required. Introductory coding experience and a strong interest in math and biology is expected, but the program will begin with laboratory and coding boot-camps to bring students up to speed.


Students are expected to fulfill all the requirements of the program in which they're enrolled, including (but not necessarily limited to) attending and participating in all laboratory and computational components of the program.

The program will run from Monday through Friday from 9 AM to approximately 5 PM, with a daily lunch break. Most days will be designed to include both laboratory and computational components. Guest speakers will discuss additional topics relevant to the field, and we're seeking opportunities that'll connect students to local computational biology resources demonstrating Pittsburgh as an emerging biotech hub.


The program will last three weeks. We're still finalizing the curriculum, which will include laboratory and computational modules in DNA extraction and amplification, genome sequencing, microbiome sequencing and image segmentation/analysis.  If you've never heard of any of these terms, don’t worry! That’s what the program's all about :-). We'll also be working with local partners to provide hands-on experiences wherever possible.