Ada Lovelace Day

Yesterday was Ada Lovelace Day, celebrating the achievements of women in STEM.  If you don’t know about Ada or her legacy, this article is worth a read:

Ada Lovelace Day Honors “the First Computer Programmer” – Scientific American Blog Network

Ada is always a presence in the compbio lab (thanks to Nicole Ezell ’16):



New Reed CompBio Blog

As part of a recently-funded collaborative REU (generously supported by the CRA-W), my colleague Derek Applewhite and I are working with undergraduates to study machine learning methods to predict genes that regulate cell movement patterns in schizophrenia.  The team will post their work on new a Reed College blog, The Pathway Not Taken, and I may re-post selected pieces here.  The first post gives a general idea of the problem we will work on, and how biology and computer science are intertwined in the project.

Summer Reading List

For the first time in years, I’m making an effort to read some books for fun this summer.  I even made a list! There’s a theme, though – I might throw in a mystery novel for good measure.

  1. The Gene: an Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee.  This book, by the author of The Emperor of all Maladies (which I wrote a bit about in an earlier post), is a detailed history of genes – from initial theories to current events. image from Google Books.
  2. Inventing the Mathematician: Gender, Race, and Our Cultural Understanding of Mathematics by Sara N. Hottinger.  The author is a professor of Women’s and Gender Studies.  I first of her book after reading her piece on the Inside Higher Ed blog, where she described why she decided to pursue a degree in feminist studies despite her passion and aptitude for mathematics. inventingbook
  3. The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World by Scott Hartley.  The author is a venture capitalist who writes about a new generation of entrepreneurs with a mix of STEM and liberal arts training.  fuzzy


Fixing science, one researcher at a time

A recent column in Nature caught my attention today.  The piece, No researcher is too junior to fix science by John Tregoning, talks about the problematic competitiveness of science.  Tregoning ends the column with an appeal to combat this current scientific culture.

Let’s strive instead to stand together. One science historian called last month’s science march unprecedented in its scale and breadth. That energy and optimism need not dissipate — it should be funnelled into making the system function better. The pay-off might not be immediate, but let’s play the long game so that all can win.

I couldn’t have put it better.

Congratulations Seniors

It’s been a long while since I posted, so I figured it’s appropriate to resume this blog by congratulating all the seniors at Reed who have labored over their theses throughout the year.  Now, they will ceremoniously burn all their drafts this afternoon at the bonfire.  Happy Renn Fayre!


Spotted outside my office door in the Biology building.

Field Trip! Computational Biology on the Road

A few weeks ago I took my students to the Association Computing Machinery Conference on Bioinformatics, Computational Biology, and Health Informatics (ACM-BCB) in Seattle, WA.  It was a fantastic experience for everyone involved – the organizers did an excellent job running the conference.  I asked my students to reflect on the conference, and I figured I should do the same.

With such a large cohort of undergraduates at a scientific conference, my role shifted to encompass one of an educator as well as a researcher.  I honed in on the accessibility of the material in talks, feeling a bit of pride when the speakers showed an image or mentioned a topic I have taught in class.  I also had some moments of “wow, should have taught them that” when a speaker presented a fundamental concept we have not yet covered.  Many of my students came out of sessions excited about what they had just learned – they talked with the speakers, asked for their papers, and are now delving into this new material.  Graduate student attendees became mentors, fielding questions about why they went to graduate school and how they picked their research topic.

ACM-BCB was an ideal size – the conference had compelling talks and tutorials while being small enough to chat with the keynote speakers and conference organizers.  I caught up with existing colleagues and met some potential collaborators in the Pacific Northwest.  I also found myself in discussions with  graduate students about my position in a liberal arts environment.  Reed had a research presence, since three Reed students submitted posters to the poster session.  My students had garnered enough research experience — either through their thesis, summer research, or independent projects in class — to have engaging conversations with other attendees.

Finally, the trip to ACM-BCB as a class taught everyone (including me) the importance of logistics.  Some gems:

  1. Make sure the taxi to the train station can fit the entire group.
  2. Remember who you gave the posters to in your mad dash to find parking before your train departs (see #1).
  3. Make sure your PCard credit limit is set so it’s not declined at the hotel.
  4. Tell your students the correct time of the first keynote.

And the question of the day: is a (very detailed) receipt for a can of soda written on a napkin by a bartender reimbursable?