Linking Computer Science and Science Students

Professor Carla Brodley, Computer Science webpage

Professor David Walt, Chemistry webpage

Modern bioinformatics research gathers vast amounts of data. While data management strategies are integral to computer science they are often not included as part of a graduate curriculum in chemistry, biology or bioengineering. In order to forge partnerships between computer science and science departments, Professor Walt and Computer Science Professor Carla Brodley teamed up to offer a new course in the Fall of 2006: Interdisciplinary Research: Computer Science Problems in Biology, Chemistry, and Bioengineering. In the Fall of 2006, the course was a one semester seminar. In 2007-2008, we expanded the course to be a two semester seminar, and involved both computer science graduate and undergraduate students.

The format of the course remained the same during the two years the course was run. In the first few weeks of the semester, scientists present an overview of his or her research and examples of one or more data management issues the researcher has encountered. The presentations purposefully include background information in biology, chemistry and bioengineering for the computer science students, and are followed by a group discussion of possible solutions. Computer Science students who are interested in the project team up with the scientist presenter and arrange future meetings, including visiting the laboratories and getting hands on experience with the data collection processes.

For many of the projects, the course was only the beginning. Numerous collaborative integrated research projects between Computer Science and Chemistry, Biology, and Bioengineering students were stimulated by the class. A list of resulting projects and papers can be found on the Theses page.