Building research resources for students at all Universities and Colleges
Aim: Bring research opportunities to every student seeking advancement with emphasis in getting computational and bioinformatics experiences to Universities and Colleges where these opportunities are exceptionally rare.
Area of Need: Nearly ¼ of college level students attend community colleges with an additional student body found at smaller Universities. While these locations provide either a lower cost education or a more nurturing environment for learning, both present students with limited opportunities for research experience. The lack of research opportunities is a result of fewer federal and state grant dollars distributed to these institutes focused on research, with a few larger universities gaining most of the research budget. This has several downfalls. First, there is a lack of ability to identify students that may have strong futures in research, decreasing those that chose STEM fields for the future. Second, these students are on uneven footing to get into professional or graduate programs compared to students from larger research level institutes due to limited ability to perform research, present research at conferences, and have the potential to be scientifically published upon graduating.
Objective: Teach students how to think through the scientific method, using available data to help guide hypothesis generation and then bioinformatic tools to test hypotheses. If available at institutes, help students then translate this information into wet lab experiments that can be performed. As many universities and colleges have very limited supply budgets for research, we emphasize and expand on the growing demand for researchers familiar with bioinformatic techniques. With a few computers, these students can perform basic protein modeling, evolutionary analysis, interpretation and identification of clinical variants in proteins, analysis of the human genome using genome viewing tools, analysis of expression data in various public databases. These techniques can be advanced as the students’ progress to more complex bioinformatic techniques including molecular dynamic simulations, hybrid threading modeling, molecular docking, and analysis of next generation sequence data. With many of the colleges and universities the professors have research interests. In those cases, we work with these groups to help develop computational strategies to advance their research and give students low cost experiments. For those colleges and universities that do not have professors/teachers with research interest, we utilize several of our ongoing research projects (Unknown Proteome, clinical variants, ENCODE transcription factor analysis, tissue specific promoter analysis) to provide students with opportunities. In these projects, we help try to team up large research lab projects with students to look at the known information, helping to advance both the research and student knowledge.