Applications for Fall 2017 PINC Cohort Now Open! – DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MAY 12th!



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. No prior computer science experience is needed to join, and all classes in the series are taken with fellow biology students. Students are also supported by faculty mentors and weekly tutoring by CS graduate students. Completion of the five courses (15 units total) in the PINC curriculum allows students to earn an “Emphasis in Computer Science”.

The PINC Curriculum (15 units):

CSc 306 – Computing for Biologists
CSc 220 – Data Structures and Algorithms
CSc 307 – Web and Databases for Biologists
CSc 690 – Two special topic courses, lectures & independent research project

We are looking for motivated students to apply and join our Fall 2017 cohort! The application, due APRIL 28, 2017 is available at the link below:

PINC Fall 2017 Cohort Application

If you have any questions about the program, please contact Prof. Ilmi Yoon ( or Prof. Pleuni Pennings (

PINC Program-Wide Meeting On April 20

On Thursday, April 20, PINC will be having a program-wide meeting for faculty, CS graduate student mentors, and students from the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 cohorts. It will be held at LIB 121 from 2:30-4:30 pm.  We will be discussing the PINC program’s plans for the next year and the content and structure of the CSc 690 research course. Refreshments will be provided!

PINC Program-Wide Meeting

When: Thursday April 20, 2017 from 2:30-4:30 PM
Where: LIB 121

PINC 1st Social Gathering

Join us this Saturday, December 3 at Junipero Serra Clubhouse & Playground for the PINC program’s first social gathering!

We will be celebrating the achievements of our first cohort (Fall 2016) and look forward to meeting the family, friends, and significant others that have supported our students on their educational journey. In addition, the PINC professors, chairs of the Biology and the Computer Science department, and guests from academia and industry will be in attendance. Prospective PINC students are encouraged and invited to attend to learn more about our program.

Food and refreshments will be provided, but feel free to bring an appetizer or dessert! There is a playground for children and indoor/outdoor seating. Street parking is available on Denslowe and Stonecrest Drive.

Email to RSVP. All are welcome!

PINC 1st Social Gathering
Time: Saturday, December 3 from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Location: Junipero Serra Playground and Clubhouse
300 Stonecrest Drive San Francisco, CA 94132

PINC Professional Development Lunch

This Tuesday, PINC hosted a Professional Development Lunch with guests Dr. Belle Wei and Dr. Nandita Garud.

Dr. Belle Wei and Dr. Nandita Garud
Dr. Belle Wei and Dr. Nandita Garud

Dr. Belle Wei is the Carolyn Guidry Chair in Engineering Education and Innovative Learning at San Jose State University. She seeks to broaden student participation in engineering and technology education by designing innovative learning programs that promote inclusion of students from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented groups such as women, African-Americans, and Hispanics. She has also previously served as the Dean of the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering at San Jose State University and the Provost and VP of Academic Affairs at CSU Chico. She has been a Professor of Electrical Engineering for 29 years.

Dr. Nandita Garud is a population geneticist and a postdoctoral scholar at the Gladstone Institute at UCSF. Her research focuses on understanding adaptation in natural populations. As a Ph.D student at Stanford University, she developed a new statistical method to detect hard and soft selective sweeps from Drosophila population genomic data. She is currently is studying adaptation within the human gut microbiome.

The guests each gave short talks during the lunch hour. Dr. Wei discussed the importance of bringing diverse domains of knowledge into computer science practice by developing interdisciplinary programs such as PINC. Dr. Garud highlighted the essential role of computing in her research on the human gut microbiome. Afterwards, students held round table discussions with our guests and PINC professors Dr. Pleuni Pennings, Dr. Ilmi Yoon, and Dr. Anagha Kulkarni. Students received insight in our guests’ and professors’ experiences with interdisciplinary projects, best practices in learning how to code, and future careers at the interface of biology and computer science.


PINC Tutors: Reflections on Mentor Training

The inaugural semester of the PINC program has begun and everyone is excited to see the students make progress in their understanding of computer science while having fun as well! Our CS graduate student tutors are an integral part of our students’ success. We have four tutors who will each hold two tutoring meetings every week during the semester.

Mentorship by CS graduate students is one of the unique aspects of our program. It not only gives our students the benefit of weekly interaction with tutors in a small-group setting, but also offers CS masters students the opportunity to gain teaching and mentoring experience.

Three of our tutors attended a mentor training workshop on campus at the beginning of the semester. Tutors Rupal Khilari and Anu Aggarwal reflect on their experience: 


Rupal Khilari: “It was truly inspiring to see their teamwork, belief and efforts which brought about a meaningful change.”

“The training was directed towards active participation, encouraging the students to reflect on topics and share ideas. It taught us a variety of interesting concepts for effective mentoring.” 

“Through active participation we learnt about implicit and explicit expectations of mentors, and also learnt valuable lessons from past experiences of former facilitators – what worked and did not work for them.”

“The highlight [of the training] was when we watched the documentary ‘Agents of Change’ – about the African-American student union uprising of 1968 that took place at San Francisco State University and Cornell to include more opportunities and relevant education for them. This led to the inclusion of ethnic and black history studies and helped integrate people from diverse backgrounds. We also had the chance to interact with former members of this uprising at SFSU. It was truly inspiring to see their teamwork, belief and efforts which brought about a meaningful change.”



Anu Aggarwal: “You need to understand the needs of each student and organise the class accordingly. One needs to keep in mind that they are not spoonfeeding the students with all the answers. You need to help the students reach up to the answers by brainstorming rather than letting them know the answers.”

“The goal of the workshop was to train both new as well as experienced facilitators/tutors about about the learning process and effective learning environments. We learned about the 5E’s that can help to layout the structure of your class: Engage-Explore-Explain-Elaborate-Evaluate. Different teaching techniques can be applied, like having group discussions, Q/A sessions, games etc. in order to make classes more fun and informative.”

“Being a tutor is like attending a crash course in human psychology. It gets better with experience. You need to understand the needs of each student and organise the class accordingly. It should benefit all the students in some way or the other. One needs to keep in mind that they are not spoonfeeding the students with all the answers. You need to help the students reach up to the answers by brainstorming rather than letting them know the answers. With all the activities we did in the workshop, we got to know the essentials of tutoring and some of  best practices to deploy and test.”

First PINC class started

With the start of the fall semester, the first PINC cohort began the first class of the course series, Computing and App Design for Biologists (CS306). The class is designed by Professor Ilmi Yoon to introduce biologists to computational problem solving and important computer science concepts.

Professor Ilmi Yoon provides feedback to a student about their app.

The students have already programmed their first app using App Inventor for Android, a highly visual and intuitive blocks-based programming tool developed by MIT and Google. Students are able to test their apps in real-time with Android phones on loan to them while in the PINC program. In addition to the lectures, the students have also started their weekly meetings with their graduate student tutors from the computer science department.