A lot of “firsts” for Darleen Franklin in the PINC program

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

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. 

Making a difference in my community as a female scientist

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!!  

This semester I learned about web page development and this was the first time I didn’t shy away from clicking on the View Page Source icon.  Seeing the html and Javascript code for that webpage was simply amazing to me.  It didn’t look foreign anymore!

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!  

Darleen Franklin


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. 


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 (ilmi@sfsu.edu) or Prof. Pleuni Pennings (pennings@sfsu.edu).

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 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.



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 pinc.sfsu@gmail.com 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