Our Training and Experimentation in Computational Biology (TECBio): “Simulation and Visualization of Biological Systems at Multiple Scales” REU program is a 10-week summer program that will provide a challenging and fulfilling graduate-level research experience to undergraduate students. A wide variety of theoretical and experimental research projects are available to our participating students. Students will also receive classroom training in topics pertinent to the emerging field of computational biology, such as computational structural biology, cell and systems modeling, computational genomics, and bioimage informatics. Additionally, TECBio students will participate in a weekly journal club, attend research and career seminars organized specifically for the program, take part in an ethics forum that will instruct them in the responsible conduct of research, present their work at a Pittsburgh-wide annual research symposium, and experience the various social and cultural activities available in Pittsburgh – America’s most livable city.

Sample Schedule from 2022 Program

Timetable and Activities

Students will start their research immediately at the beginning of the TECBio program. Within the first two weeks, students will also attend lectures and participate in computer laboratory sessions that will give them exposure to and practical experience in a comprehensive and interdisciplinary breadth of topics. The final week will be devoted to student presentations. Weekly seminars and journal clubs will also be hosted.

Outline of TECBio Acitivities

Week 1: Welcome lunch and picnic, orientation meetings, beginning of research projects

Weeks 1-2: Entering Research (Mentee Training) Sessions

Weeks 2-9: Research and career seminars (Tuesdays), Journal club (Thursdays), Professional development and networking events (Fridays)

Week 10: Preparation for student research presentations (talk and poster)

Last Day: Research Symposium at Duquesne University

Entering Research Training (Mentee Training)

During the first two weeks of the program, the program director holds 5 sessions on How to be a More Effective Mentee based on the Entering Research training curriculum (Branchaw, J. L., Butz, A. R., and Smith, A. R. (2020) Entering Research: A Curriculum to Support Undergraduate and Graduate Research Trainees, 2nd ed., Macmillan).  These sessions are geared towards promoting student students’ identity and confidence as a researcher, addressing potential challenges nascent scientists may face, and covering strategies for self-efficacy and success. 

Journal Club

Each student will give a ~20-25 minute presentation plus ~5 minutes for discussion of one research article during the Journal Club. The article (a primary research paper, no reviews please) will be selected with the help of the research mentor after discussing the student’s research interests and background. We ask that students arrange for a member of the research mentor’s group to attend the journal club to facilitate the presentations and discussions.

Professional Development and Networking

A weekly professional development and networking event will be held on most Fridays of the program.  These sessions will cover topics such as graduate school and fellowship prep, scientific writing/presenting, and exploring careers both inside and outside of academia.  These events will be paired with ice cream-fueled networking events to introduce students to the faculty, students, and staff in the department. 

Student-Led Committees

To give students more ownership of the program, TECBio participants lead and serve on 2 of 4 student committees that focus on the activities described below.  Each committee works with a TECBio program liaison to help guide each committee.   

Ambassador Committee: Reaches out to the lay public to disseminate, translate, and raise awareness of science.  Past activities included dissemination of student research over social media, writing to and inviting politicians to program events, and outreach to the local community.

Mentoring Committee: Works with high school students in the accompanying UPMC Hillman Academy program.  Students provide support and guidance to these nascent scientists. 

Social Committee: Coordinates social activities within the cohort and for the program.

T-shirt Committee: Designs and orders program t-shirts that are given to all participants, faculty, and supporting students and staff. 

Ethics and Responsible Conduct of Research Training

Students will review incidents of alleged and actual research misconduct and prepare a discussion (usually in the form of a skit) at a programmatic Ethics Forum that will be organized around the half-way point of the program. TECBio students will work with graduate student mentors to prepare for the forum.

Fun Stuff

A welcome picnic helps kick off the program and introduces students to some of the great outdoor activities available in our neighboring Schenley Park.  Other social activities will be planned in normal and virtual reality.