In the fall of 2019, the SFSU PINC program is welcoming a new cohort of PINC minor students.
The first class of the minor (CSC 306) is an intro to programming in Python and will be taught by Dr Pleuni Pennings on MW 3:30 – 4:45 in Thornton 329. CSC 306 is a gentle introduction to the world of programming and students need absolutely no prior knowledge. The class is open to students from Biology / Biochem/ Chemistry. Students can simply sign up for the class, we no longer ask students to apply to become a PINC student. Pre-Biology students very welcome!
If you want to do the entire minor, it consists of 5 classes usually taken over 4 semesters. Master students can sign up for the classes, but cannot get the minor.
If you have any questions, please email pennings @ sfsu . edu.
The promotion video above was made by Niquo Ceberio with the help of Jhony Zavaleta who both took CSC 306 in the fall of 2018. The two students who are interviewed in the video are Emily Samperio (who is now taking CSC 698) and Maria Flores (who is now in CSC 220).
We try to keep track of where PINC students go and recently, many PINC students have been successful in getting into PhD programs or interesting jobs.
Last year, Cecelia Brown did an internship at IBM Research and started a PhD program at Stanford. Ezequiel Lopez started a job doing data analysis for the SF BUILD program on our campus. But graduation from PINC doesn’t necessarily happen at the same time as graduation from SFSU, so many of the PINC 2018 students are now graduating and going different places.
Dr Carla Pugh is a surgeon, researcher and educator. In her lab, she builds anatomical models with sensors that interface with computers to help medical professionals learn how to use touch better, in other words, to train their haptic skills. Touch is key for many medical examinations (e.g., finding a lump in a breast) but it is hard to train people to do such examinations correctly. To learn more about her work have a look at this Ted Talk: https://www.tedmed.com/talks/show?id=292997
On March 4th, 2019, Students from the PINC program at SFSU and the Howard West Program at Google were invited to visit her lab and learn about her work.
A special treat for the PINC students was that we got to talk to Cecilia Brown, a PINC alum who is now a PhD student at Stanford.
The PINC program started in 2016 as a collaboration between the CS and Biology Departments at SFSU. Now, two years later, we are extremely happy to announce that were awarded 1.3 million dollars from the NSF to continue our efforts in the next 5 years!
The money will be used to run separate PINC sections for CS classes, to hire PINC mentors, to run the PINC summer program and to do research on how we can best support women and students from underrepresented groups in their CS journey.
Abstract of the NSF proposal
This project aims to address two pressing needs in STEM education: 1) increasing the number of students graduating with expertise in data and computer science; and 2) improving diversity in STEM fields. The project team at San Francisco State University (SFSU) will achieve these goals by developing and implementing a Computing Application minor. This minor will use evidence-based approaches to attract, retain, and support students, with attention to students from groups that are underrepresented in computer/data science, including female students. By tailoring activities to students’ majors, the project expects to increase student engagement and help students experience how data and computer science are applied in their majors and future professions. Students in the minor will have opportunities to work with local industry and governmental agencies. In addition, this project will link to the NSF INCLUDES project at SFSU. As a result, the Computing Application minors will be able to work with high school students as computer science mentors and role models. These experiences can support development of critical skills, including leadership. The project aims to provide a sustainable and scalable model for introducing data and computer science to science majors that can be adopted by other institutions, and that can broaden participation in those fields.
The Computing Application minor will be a four-semester, five-course sequence designed for STEM students who have no prior computer/data science knowledge and who are taking a full course load in their major. The project will provide participating students with learning experiences related to their majors, train computer science faculty in evidence-based science teaching methods, and invite students to share their knowledge with the K-12 community. To reduce stereotype threat and imposter syndrome, the project will employ a cohort-based structure that uses peer, faculty, and industry mentors to create a nurturing and supportive community of learners. The project will identify pedagogies that promote students’ interest in computer/data science and their motivation to use it in their majors. These research results can inform other efforts to broaden the diversity of people who have computational expertise, and who decide to pursue graduate degrees and careers in computer/data science.
Eight teams of mostly undergrad students from Biology, Biochemistry, Economics and other disciplines spent 9 weeks during the summer of 2018 learning “Big Data” skills. Each team was led by a senior undergrad or graduate student, with support from a professor. The program was run by Drs Rori Rohlfs (biology), Nicole Adelstein (chemistry), Sepideh Modrek (economics) and Pleuni Pennings (biology).
During the 9 weeks of the program, students worked in small groups for 10 hours a week on campus. In the first weeks of the program, each team worked through an online class, and then they applied their new skills to a research project. For example, one team learned data science skills in R and then analyzed data on the experience of students in our local REU program. Another team learned machine learning skills and then worked on a project to determine the subtype of an HIV sequence using machine learning algorithms.
Many of the students in the program were recruited to the different labs on campus to continue doing computational research. Several students joined the PINC program to take their first CS class.
The “splicing team” did computational research on alternative splicing during the 2018 summer program.
Promoting Inclusivity in Computing (PINC) via Computing Application Minor
Ilmi Yoon, Pleuni Pennings, Anagha Kulkarni, Kaz Okada, Carmen Domingo
Abstract— We aimed to build a new educational pathway that would provide basic training in computer science for women and students from underrepresented (UR) groups who otherwise may not take computer science classes in college. Specifically, this on-going project focused on creating a 2-year Computer Science (CS) program consisting of exciting new courses aimed at biology majors. Biology traditionally attracts large numbers of women, a significant number of students from UR groups, and has compelling needs for CS technology. The interdisciplinary program is training the next generation of innovators in the biological sciences who will be prepared to cross disciplinary boundaries. The program consists of the following: (1) computer science courses with content related to biology, (2) cohorts of students that progress through the program together, and (3) a small group peer mentoring environment, and (4) facilitated interdisciplinary research projects. Graduates from this program, referred to as “PINC” – Promoting INclusivity in Computing – will receive a “Minor in Computing Applications” in addition to their primary science degree in Biology. The program is now in its second year and thus far 60 students have participated. Among them, 73% are women and 51% are underrepresented minorities (URM). The majority of students in the PINC program stated that they would not have taken CS courses without the structured support of the PINC program. Here we present the data collected during this two year period as well as details about the Computing Application minor and programmatic components that are having a positive impact on student outcomes.
Promoting Diversity in Computing
Anagha Kulkarni, Ilmi Yoon, Pleuni Pennings, Kaz Okada, Carmen Domingo
Abstract: In this paper we present a pilot program at San Francisco State University, Promoting INclusivity in Computing (PINC), that is designed to achieve two goals simultaneously: (i) improving diversity in computing, and (ii) increasing computing literacy in data-intensive fields. To achieve these goals, the PINC program enrolls undergraduate students from non Computer Science (non-CS) fields, such as, Biology, that have become increasingly data-driven, and that traditionally attract diverse student population. PINC incorporates several well-established pedagogical practices, such as, cohort-based program structure, near-peer mentoring, and project- driven learning, to attract, retain, and successfully graduate a highly diverse and interdisciplinary student body. On successful completion of the program, students are awarded a minor in Computing Applications. Since its inception 18 months ago, 60 students have participated in this program. Of these 73% are women, and 51% are underrepresented minorities (URM). 74% of the participating students had nominal or no exposure to computer programming before PINC. Findings from student surveys show that majority of the PINC students now feel less intimidated about computer programming, and vividly see its utility and necessity. For several students, participation in the PINC program has already opened up career pathways (industry and academic summer internships) that were not available to them before.
The PINC program is a collaboration between the Biology and the CS department. One of our goals is to make CS more accessible for non-CS majors, and one way to track our success is to see if the number of Biology students who are taking CS classes is increasing. We just got the data for Fall 2017 and we see that the fraction of Biology majors (undergraduates) who are taking a CS class has increased for the 3rd time in a row. The PINC program launched in Fall 2016. Thanks to Institutional Research for providing the data!
The PINC program offers CS classes to Biology and Biochemistry students. When we started PINC, we believed that offering classes (or sections of classes) specifically for Biology and Biochemistry students, would attract more women and students from underrepresented minorities to CS classes. The PINC students are supported by mentors who meet with small groups of students every week. We hoped that this additional support would help students feel comfortable in the CS classes and lead to high persistence from one class to the next. In the past winter break, we decided to take some time to crunch the numbers. The Office of Institutional Research helped us with this analysis.
More than 70% of PINC students identify as female, as opposed to 19% among CS Majors, which is an increase of almost three-fold (290%).
We find that over half of the PINC students in the first three semesters of the program identify as Black or Latino, whereas just over one quarter of students in the CS major identify as Black or Latino. The fraction of Black and Latino students in the PINC program is 93% higher than the the fraction of Black and Latino students in the CS major (51% vs 26%).
Although the PINC program is still small, the number of Bio Majors who are enrolled in a CS class has grown since the fall of 2016 when we started the PINC program.
Bio Majors who take a CS class (out of interest or to fulfill a requirement), usually don’t come back to the CS department to take a second CS class (19% does come back for a second CS class). Among the PINC students in the first two cohorts, 65% came back to take a second class, which is a 250% increase.