Carnegie Mellon University
July 29, 2022

CBD Hosts Fourth Annual Pre-College Program

Phillip Compeau and Josh Kangas recently completed the fourth annual Computational Biology Precollege program, the first in-person session of the program since 2019.

The program attracts students from across the United States as well as internationally, who come to Carnegie Mellon for a three-week intensive course showing them the intersection between experimental and computational biology. After a day on Rivers of Steel’s Explorer riverboat  sailing forty miles of Pittsburgh’s rivers and collecting river water samples, students then work to isolate and sequence the DNA present in this water in the laboratory, then analyze the DNA using code that they write.

Each morning, students participated in a team hackathon with Prof. Compeau and a team of teaching assistants, with the focus of implementing algorithms fundamental to genomic data analysis that would then be applied to bacterial as well as SARS-CoV-2 datasets.

Each afternoon, students performed wet lab experiments to generate data to be analyzed with the code and techniques taught in the morning hackathons.  This included experiments to isolate and identify bacteria with sequencing.  The also performed a number of molecular biology protocols to sequence DNA from biological material filtered from various locations in the three rivers.

When asked to reflect on the program, one student said, “We have learnt a large amount of CS, a completely new coding language, lab techniques that I have previously never done, and most importantly, a new way of thinking...The notion of merging what one does in the lab with what one codes up is a completely novel idea that is extremely effective.”

This summer, the program had 48 attendees, some of whom attended under scholarships which met 100% of need.