PINC Summer Program 2017

Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 9.09.19 PM
(Text and photos by Dr Rori Rohlfs)
The PINC Summer Program trained 15 SFSU undergraduate biology students in computer programming, technical manuscript literacy, scientific presentations, and applied research.  With the guidance of near-peer mentors, the students worked in collaborative teams to learn how to program in either python or R, and then applied their skills to an original scientific research project.  Research topics included

  • Characterizing the Relationships Between Classroom Demographics, Survey Responses & Grades Using R
  • Modeling the evolution of alternative splicing rates
  • Predicting the Evolution of PrEP Resistant HIV
  • Quantifying relationship of google searches and STI rates

The program culminated in the students presenting their computational research projects in the poster session at the SFSU Summer Research Symposium.

Program structure

Students were grouped in teams of 3-5 students based on their weekly availability.  Each student team worked closely with a near-peer mentor 8 hours/week, and under the guidance of a faculty member (or two) who worked directly with the group one hour per week.  The participating students were all busy with classes, work, family care, and other obligations, so students were explicitly expected not to work on the summer program outside of the mentored hours (though some did).

The first 6 weeks, students focused on learning to program through free online courses, reading the scientific literature on their research topic, and practicing presenting to each other.  Some teams also started to play with data or “mini projects” relevant to their ultimate research projects.  The next 2 weeks, students delved into their research, be it simulations or data analysis.  The last week, students created posters representing their research and practiced their presentations. At the end of each week students wrote brief reflections on their experience and evaluations of their progress and the program

We held a weekly all-staff meeting to troubleshoot, respond to weekly student evaluations, and coordinate the ongoing program and projects. To keep the program running smoothly, the mentors and faculty used a slack group for quick daily questions and ongoing updates.  Individual mentors also communicated (via slack or email) frequently with their advising faculty to answer specific programming and research questions.
Each team of a mentor and students organically came up with their own communication structures as well.  Groups chose text, slack, or email to stay in touch.

Program evaluation

Pleuni and I had a great time working with students and mentors and watching their rapid development as programmers over the summer!

We are currently gathering data to understand how the program impacted students skills, motivation, and preparation for careers in science.  Look for a full description soon!


Faculty organizers and advisors: Pleuni Pennings and Rori Rohlfs
Coordinating mentor: Kadie Williams
Near-peer mentors: Sita Chamdrasekaran, Dwayne Evans, Ryan Ferguson, Kimmie Tsui
Contributing faculty advisor: Sepideh Modrek
For pictures of the event, see here.

PINC mentors lunch

The PINC mentors are graduate students in the computer science department who meet weekly with small groups of PINC students. At the end of the semester, Dr Kaz Okada treated the mentors and Dr Pleuni Pennings to a lunch.

Cherise Lau, Lijie Zhou, Yordanos Abraha Mogos, Pleuni Pennings, Kaz Okada, Rupal Khilari, Anu Aggarwal.

PINC summer program

Apply for our summer program!

•Learn computer programming 

•Experience research lab life 

•Practice reading scientific papers 

•Perform a mini research project

Applications due 21 April

Drs Rori Rohlfs and Pleuni Pennings are running a summer-research-coding program this summer. 

We do research on different topics related to genetics, evolution and HIV. There are undergraduate and graduate students in our labs who do research projects by themselves or in teams. Most of this work is on a voluntary basis. Sometimes it is possible to get SFSU credits for doing research. 

If you are unsure whether you can afford to do this because you need to work, please apply anyways, and we’ll try to find a way to support you! 

If you are interested to be part of a lab for the summer or the academic year, please let us know by filling out this form.

Applications are due April 21st. 


PINC students at Women in Engineering conference

Several PINC students and mentors and PINC PI Ilmi Yoon visited the Women in Engineering conference at San Jose State University this week.

One of our students (Kimmie Richardson-Kubitsky-Tsui) wrote that “It was very inspiring to listen to fellow women speak about their triumphs as they’ve navigated their personal and often challenging paths to success.

Kimberly Tsui (PINC student), Patti Robb (Intel), Darleen Franklin (PINC student), Belle Wei (Professor at San Jose State University), Jordan Abraa (PINC mentor) at the WiE conference at San Jose State, March 25th, 2017.


PINC deadline extended until December 21st

The deadline for applying to the PINC program for the spring of 2017 is extended until December 21st.

  • Students who cannot commit to the entire program are welcome to apply!

PINC (Promoting Inclusivity In Computing) is a unique educational opportunity at San Francisco State University designed to lower the barriers that biology students experience in learning computer science skills.

  • A two year program consisting of 15 units of computer science coursework that will expose students to computing topics such as: web design, mobile app development, data structures, and algorithms.
  • Students take courses with other biology students and courses are uniquely tailored to the PINC Program.
  • In addition, students are mentored weekly in small groups headed by Computer Science graduate students.
  • Students earn an Emphasis in Computer Science after successful completion of the curriculum.
  • NO prior computer science background needed!
  • Students receive a laptop and Android phone on loan for the duration of the program.

You can apply here: Wufoo Application Site.

If you have any questions, please reach out to one of us.



Application for Spring 2017 now open

PINC is designed as a program for biology majors, and consists of 15 units of computer science coursework (5 courses spread over 4 semesters) that will allow the students to earn an “Emphasis in Computer Science.”

We are looking for students who want to start the PINC program in the spring of 2017. The first class will be taught Tue/ Thu 12:35 – 1:50.

PINC students in the classroom.

Apply here: 2017 PINC Application.

If you have any questions about the program, please contact Prof. Ilmi Yoon (, Prof. Pleuni Pennings (, office hours after Thanksgiving: Tue and Fri 3-4 PM HH 673) or Prof. Carmen Domingo (

For more information, download the flyer here: pincflyerversiondec2016.

Content of the PINC program

5 courses, 15 units total, taken during 4 semesters:

  1. CSc 306 (Computing and App Design for Biologists),
  2. CSc 307 (Web and Databases for Biologists),
  3. CSc 220 (Data Structures and Algorithms),
  4. CSc 690 (Two special topic courses, lectures & independent research project)

Deadline to apply is Dec. 7st 2016

Add an emphasis in computer science to your CV!

Mentoring by CS grad students and Bio Professors!

Apply your new CS skills to biology topics & improve your job prospects!

No prior CS knowledge needed!

Want to talk to PINC student? Please join us at PINC BBQ on 12/3. Details will follow on this website.

More information about the upcoming PINC classes

We recently held two meetings for the new PINC students. In total 23 students came to our meetings to meet some of the professors involved, to enjoy some food, and – of course – to learn more about the class that starts in the fall. Happy to share the powerpoint slides here (made by professor Ilmi Yoon).


PINC students will start by learning to use app inventor and move on to JAVA later in the fall semester.


Students accepted to PINC program, first class starts in fall 2016

These are exciting times for those of us involved in the PINC program!

First of all, we got many applications from very motivated students and we have accepted a great group of students into the program! We will meet most of these students this week at the meetings we set up to meet with them.

Second, we are happy that the first PINC class will start in the fall. In this class, students will work on building an app for an Android phone to record and retrieve information about tick observations in the Bay Area. The class will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:35PM-1:50PM in Hensil Hall 245.

Note that this time and location is a change from earlier announcements, but a big improvement because we have a better room now, the class will be 2x 1.5 hrs instead of one long class late in the day and Dr Pleuni Pennings will be able to join the class.