Students and faculty interact and network with professionals at first ever BCB retreat

The Bioinformatics and Computational Biology retreat and symposium event took place at the Reiman Gardens on Friday. The Students Activities Center had members participate in Best Practice for team project development. Members learned about working in groups and creating solutions. 

Hyeona Jeon

The butterflies and sculptures at Reiman Gardens accompanied students in bioinformatics computational biology in their first ever retreat put on entirely by students.

The Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Graduate Student Organization brought in nationally renowned speakers Friday at Reiman Gardens to share emerging trends in bioinformatics and computational biology, and the exploration of future career opportunities for BCB students in academia and in the industry. Bioinformatics and computational biology is a science that focuses on a variety of topics, such as gene identification, expression and evolution, and molecular and cellular systems and networks.

The event also provided an opportunity for BCB students to get to know other BCB students, said John Hsieh, graduate student in bioinformatics and computational biology and president of the student organization.

The keynote speaker was Teresa Przytycka, senior scientist at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Institutes of Health. Alumnus Fadi Towfic, vice president of Biocomputing for Immuneering, Boston, Mass., spoke about the challenges and opportunities facing students in BCB.

Although the registered number for the event was 100, about 60 participated.

The BCB student organization planned this event with 50 students and organization and had about 20 to 30 volunteers. Natalia Acevedo-Luna created and coordinated the event. Hsieh, and Keting Chen, graduate student in biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology and the group’s treasurer, helped Acevedo-Luna in coordinating. 

Hsieh said the group was surprised at the outcome, given that it was first event.

“[We] are just very glad it turned out well,” he said.

Hsieh described life as a BCB student as some kind of family life and the event existed with a friendly and warm community type of environment. He said he was surprised at the dynamic within this event and how it showcased the BCB community as a group.

Hsieh said there was good participation with an engaged audience and fun activities.

“It was surprising and exciting project that was really fun,” Hsieh said.

This event not only invites BCB students to come together, but also gave those outside the BCB community the opportunity to enjoy and get to know exactly what students in bioinformatics and computational biology do. For those in the audiences not in the program, they could develop a connection for future networking.

Bioinformatics and computational biology may not seem interesting to others, Hsieh said, but they try to make the topics fun.

“Although the event is a continuous form of lecture and the lecture was really boring, BCB tries [to] make it exciting, and it was,” Hsieh said.

Hsieh and Chen said this year’s event was promising and they hope to have an even bigger event next year.

“The event was wonderful since the students did fantastic and organized [the] event and it was great to see the success from cooperation of their hard work,” said Susan Lamont, distinguished professor of animal science.

Lamont said the keynote address was the most interesting part of the day to her and said she enjoyed watching students post their own research and watching faculty and students interact. She said she thought the event was wonderful and expects to hold a bigger event next year.

Nancy Manchanda, graduate student in bioinformatics and computational biology, is in her first year with the organization and said she really enjoyed the event.

“It provided me a great opportunity to network with the keynote speaker from [the National Center for Biotechnology Information] and alumnus speaker from the industry and also provided insight into various funding opportunities and future BCB career paths,” Manchanda said.