GLBIO 2017 Special Session

Bioinformatics Education

This half-day special session will consider submissions for oral presentations, but not for full papers. Abstracts for oral presentations should be submitted through Easy Chair.

Organizer: Michael Sierk (Saint Vincent College)
Contact email:

Session Schedule, Monday, May 15th 2017
University of Illinois Chicago Student Center East
Illinois C Room

8:00 a.m. Opening Remarks, Michael Sierk, Saint Vincent College
8:05 a.m. Russell Schwartz, Carnegie Mellon University
“Evolving Standards for Graduate Education in Computational Biology”
8:30 a.m. Stephen Piccolo, Brigham Young University
“Experiences teaching bioinformatics skills to novices and to advanced undergraduates.”
9:00 a.m. Bill Morgan, Wooster College
“NIBLSE: A network to fully integrate bioinformatics into undergraduate life science education”
9:30 a.m. Mallory Freeberg, Johns Hopkins University
From high school to postdoc: lessons from a decade of bioinformatics education
10:00 a.m. Alexander Ropelewski, Pittsburgh Supercomputer Center
“Bioinformatics Professional Development Needs of Faculty at Minority Serving Institutions.”
10:30 a.m. Coffee Break
11:00 a.m. Carrie Ganote, Indiana University
The National Center for Genome Analysis Support”
11:30 a.m. Panel Discussion, “What are we doing well in bioinformatics education, and what do we need to do better?”

Education is a critical area of focus for the bioinformatics and computational biology community, as the rapid development of the field combined with the diverse backgrounds of learners makes the delivery of high quality education challenging.  In this session speakers will present their views on what we are doing well now in bioinformatics education, and what we need to improve upon in the future, in undergraduate education, graduate education, and professional development.  A roundtable discussion engaging the presenters and the audience will cap off the session.

It is widely acknowledged that modern biological and biomedical research requires the use of sophisticated computational techniques, but many scientists do not have such training.  Significant progress has been made at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional development level in the development of curricula and resources, but there are still urgent needs to further develop more curricula and resources at all levels. 

There are several challenges inherent in teaching bioinformatics and in developing training and teaching resources, including the fast-changing nature of the field, the diversity of student backgrounds, the diverse interdisciplinary fields that intersect with bioinformatics, in some cases weak computational or quantitative skills of students, the lack of available teaching resources to draw on, lack of institutional support, disagreement about what is essential and what is not in bioinformatics, and so forth.

The ISCB Education Committee has begun the task of developing a coherent picture of what current bioinformatics curricula look like[1], along with providing a framework for viewing different bioinformatics career paths and the competencies required for those career paths[2],[3]. This topic is of interest to all members of the community, from established professors to undergraduate students.

Organizer Background

Michael Sierk, Saint Vincent College,

Dr. Sierk has directed the Bioinformatics Program at Saint Vincent College for 11 years.  He has organized four Undergraduate Bioinformatics Education Conferences at Saint Vincent, with the fifth biannual conference taking place April 7-8th, 2017.  He is a member of the Steering Committee on an NSF Research Collaboration Network – Undergraduate Biology Education (RCN-UBE) grant for the Network for Integration of Bioinformatics into Life Sciences Education (NIBLSE, Mark Pauley, University of Nebraska at Omaha, PI).  He has also attended multiple RECOMB-BE (Bioinformatics Education) conferences, as well as multiple GLBIO and ISMB meetings.  He was on the inaugural Student Committee of the ISCB in 2004.  He completed his PhD in Biophysics at the University of Virginia under Fraydoon Rastinejad, and postdoctoral studies at UVA with Bill Pearson.

[1] Welch LR, et al. (2012) PLoS Comput Biol 8(6): e1002570. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002570

[2] Welch L, et al. (2014) PLoS Comput Biol 10(3): e1003496. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003496

[3] Welch L, et al. (2016) PLoS Comput Biol 12(5): e1004943. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004943