PINC is open for all majors in the College of Science and Engineering.
Download the 2018 flyer as a pdf: PINCFlyerVersion2018V2
PINC is open for all majors in the College of Science and Engineering.
Download the 2018 flyer as a pdf: PINCFlyerVersion2018V2
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.
By PINC student Kimberly Tsui
I am not the typical student. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology: Concentration in Microbiology from SFSU in 2007. I am currently a full-time staff member in the Biology Department. I have been married for 15 years. I have 2 children in elementary school, for whom I am the sole caregiver every week day. Additionally, my son has special needs which requires behavioral and speech therapy since he was 2 years old, all of which severely limits my schedule.
Being a busy Mom, out of school for 10 years, while maintaining a full-time job, I wondered, how I could ever take on learning something that I knew absolutely nothing about. Plus, I have always been technologically challenged, I have never enjoyed playing video games, and Math was not my best subject, so for me learning computer science was unthinkable!
I first heard about the PINC Program from a flyer and attended their informational luncheon to learn more about this seemingly fantastical opportunity for a complete novice to learn coding applicable to Biology in a short 2-year program with no Computer Science (CS) experience required. Just the idea was unheard of and I was convinced it sounded way too good to be true.
Attending this meeting helped me to break through my mental barrier that told me CS was too difficult for me. After serious consideration and much trepidation, I decided to take the plunge and submit my application, assuming (and kind of hoping) that I would denied because I was too old, or out of school too long, or outcompeted by better student applicants. Lucky for me they decided to take a chance. When I found out I was accepted into the first cohort, I was both honored and terrified at the same time. Now I am amazed every day at how much I have learned in such a short period of time about a subject I originally felt I could never ever understand.
While in CSc306, I quickly realized coding truly was an alien language, based on an alien alphabet, using alien logic. Luckily, with the support of the PINC mentors, dedicated faculty and staff and lots, and lots, and lots of practice, I am so much more comfortable looking at coding, understanding what the code is supposed to do, finding online resources, and even writing my own programs than I ever thought possible. I’ve taken many difficult courses over my lifetime, but learning CS has been the most difficult academic challenge I’ve ever encountered.
During this stint into the world of CS, I’ve had to completely change my learning style and accept that it’s OK I can’t remember everything and that I am supposed to “Google” questions. That being said, I also realized that employing this method to obtain information also meant you needed to have a clear understanding of your goal to adapt the online information to fit your specific needs. Coding is a lot like cooking. First, you need to figure out what you want to make. Are you baking a cake or making a salad? Then, you need to troubleshoot, research, collaborate, and find the tools required to create the cake or salad you’re trying to make. There are endless ways to prepare cakes, salads, and programs, alike.
After only my first semester in the PINC program, a few members of our cohort, decided to share the fun and excitement of our newfound App Inventor knowledge to teach middle school girls to code during EYH 2016. In addition, I was also able to be a near peer mentor to 5 undergraduate students during the PINC Summer Program 2017 where we learned R Programming, trained them in technical manuscript literacy, scientific presentations, and in applied research. My group presented our poster, “Quantifying the Relationship of Google searches and STI Rates” at the SFSU Summer Research Symposium. I really enjoyed both of these mentoring opportunities and I had a blast working together in collaborative learning environments.
There is no way I could’ve ever imagined the amount of frustration and elation involved in Computer Science. Coding became so addicting that time would fly by so fast, it was morning before I even realized it. Don’t get me wrong, the challenges presented by these CS PINC courses were almost unbearable, but being in a cohort surrounded by only PINC peers, all struggling and collaborating together, really made all the difference.
I look forward to using CS more in my current job and, once my children are a little more independent, I hope to explore the possibility of getting my Master’s of Science degree incorporating Computer Science into Biology. I am also happy that I understand so much more about the technological world around me that I’ve tried to ignore for so long. I can no longer say that my children understand more about technology than I do.
Thank you to all the PINC Program faculty for taking a chance on me and helping me to venture out of my comfort zone and develop an understanding of computer science and the technology around me. This experience has been amazing and truly unforgettable. I can’t wait to continue working on our app next semester!
by CS Major and PINC mentor: Aanchal Narad
PINC held a ‘Professional Development Seminar’ on the evening of Oct 27, 2017. It was aimed for PINC students to get the right motivation in terms of preparation, to get ready for industry level jobs. The seminar was strategically divided into 3 sessions- The Poster Session, Students Panel Session and lastly, tips from an experienced professional.
PINC students who are in the third semester of the program are taking CSc 698 Research Project Class this semester with Professor Anagha Kulkarni. In this class they have been working on interesting projects that involve biology concepts, along with utilizing their knowledge of computation that they have been learning in the past CSC 306 and CSC 307 PINC classes. These students affixed their posters on the walls and demonstrated the progress of their projects to the their audience. Overall, poster session helped the presenters to refine their presentation skills and their ideas on their projects while speaking and by getting feedback from the audience. It also helped students who are in the early stages of PINC program to be inspired by the kind of computational projects they will be able to do with the classes that they are currently taking.
This panel consisted of three PINC students who gained experience over the summer working as interns.
The first student Gerardo Aquilar, worked at Genentech as a Data Analyst Intern over the summer. He discussed his process and time of application and how he got the internship. He said, “It’s because of PINC that I was able to get an internship at Genentech.” During the interview process, his interviewer was impressed when Gerardo mentioned that he knows programming in Python. The job actually required R programming, but the interviewer could see that Gerardo had the ability to learn R. Gerardo learned R by himself during his 3 months of internship. A student asked, “How did this internship benefit him?” To which he said that he now has data analytics experience which at first was alien to him. He was also offered a full time job at Genentech, which inspired many students to follow his route and take advantage of being in PINC program.
The next panelist Gabriella Tenorio, shared her experience of working as a research intern at SFSU as part of an REU program (Research Experience for Undergraduates). She shared how she heard about the opportunity and what the application procedure includes. She highlighted some important points about the application deadline, that students took note of. Her job as a research intern in bioinformatics included to look into HIV sequences, create simulations and much more. In the end, she presented her research to the entire department and tested out simulation work. She concluded by saying that she learned a lot in 9 weeks of research and 1 week of lab, and that students should check out SF State’s REU application and apply if they are interested.
The third student on the panel was by Nicole Rodrigues, who spent her summer at MIT. She discussed the requirements and eligibility criteria to get in the program. She was fascinated by the variety of research done by professors at MIT. During the summer, she had freedom to approach the professors and know about their work, so she gained a better idea of what interests her the most. Overall, it was a great experience to network and get familiar with the diverse research going on at prestigious colleges such as MIT.
The last student on the panel was Cheng Li, a graduate student in Computer Science at SF State. He was a Wind River Software Engineer Intern this past summer. He built Continuous Integration Infrastructure with Linux team. He emphasized to use certain keywords when making profile on platforms such as LinkedIn and Handshake. He shared his interview process and how important these projects are that students are taking in PINC. These are the kinds of projects that companies out there are looking for new graduates to have experience in. He next talked about the career fair and other networking opportunities.
The last session was held by Linda Chen, a well experienced professional from the Biology Department at SF State. She has experience in helping Biology students get a job in industry. She shared her insights on the websites where students have had success in searching for jobs. She gave very meaningful tips and tricks on improving your resume. She mentioned how important these skills are that students are learning in PINC. The programming and computational knowledge has an increased demand in the the industry and it helps students stand out from other applicants applying for the same job. She encouraged students to keep up their hard work in PINC because it will pay off in the end. They are on the right track!
For example, one student wrote: “It was great hearing from students and how the CS skills has helped them get internships and jobs. Also hearing all the resume info and hearing ways to network and find ways to do with skills are all very valuable. PD is great and meeting/collaboration across cohorts is very beneficial. Thank you.”
I woke at 4am this morning thinking about the PINC program and what a difference it has made in my life.
When I first heard about SFSU’s PINC program I never thought for a millisecond that I could be one of those students, least of all one of the first student to venture into the world of coding and applying it to my field of science of microbiology in the Department of Biology at SFSU. The world of coding was foreign to me and I couldn’t see the connection between microbiology science and this technology. As the first in my family to attain a college education and being the only female in my family, I have had to work very hard to achieve this education. Reading the words on the PINC flyer “designed to lower the barriers that biology students experience in learning computer science skills… ” and “NO prior computer science background needed! ” I decided to give it a try.
My first course was “CSc306 Intro to Java Programming” with a taste of App Inventor which I took in the Fall of 2016. Before PINC I avoided even using a QR scan code but after learning and using App Inventor I was immediately impressed with the PINC program! I scanned my first QR code because of PINC in Fall 2016! The coursework and instruction challenged me to think outside the box.
What stood out for me was the good this technology brings to humankind, as demonstrated in the App Inventor tutorial where we learned about the birth of the “No Texting While Driving App” created by students learning coding just like me. I thought what good could I do to help humankind using this technology. At Christmas of 2016, while sharing what I had learned in CSc306 with my young adult step son came the idea of making an app to monitor drunkenness at the bar. Today that idea is now my team’s project for the final presentation in my journey through this program.
As a young female minority scientist, PINC gave me an unforgettable opportunity to meet some amazing women in science and engineering when I attended the Silicon Valley Women in Engineering Conference at San Jose State University in March 2017. This was the first time I had been in room with hundreds of women of all colors. It was empowering!!
Now when I read the microbiology scientific articles and I see the supplemental pages with coding for the additional data I do not shy away from it. I feel more confident about my skills as a microbiologist to be able to access that data and learn more about the field of microbiology.
Today I am humbled by what PINC has taught me and can envision the bountiful opportunities that await the future PINC students at SFSU.
I am making a difference in my community as a female scientist!
The program culminated in the students presenting their computational research projects in the poster session at the SFSU Summer Research Symposium.
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.
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!
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.
Apply for our summer program!
•Learn computer programming
•Experience research lab life
•Practice reading scientific papers
•Perform a mini research project
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 (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:
If you have any questions about the program, please contact Prof. Ilmi Yoon (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Prof. Pleuni Pennings (email@example.com).
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