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.

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.


Come have lunch with PINC on April 27th!


PINC Explanation Lunch (4/27 Wed 12:00-1:30, HH501)

Come join us for am informal lunch where we will provide information on the PINC program.
We will tell you about the PINC program and answer your questions, and also brainstorm possible research problems that we can work on as part of the PINC program. Please come and meet us!


The Biology and Computer Science departments at SF State are excited to announce a new program: Promoting Inclusivity in Computing (PINC) with the goal of attracting and supporting more Biology students to Computer Science.

A few faculty members from the Biology department have joined forces with the Computer Science department to design a program that lowers the barriers that Biology students experience in learning computer science skills. This program will expose students to basic computing topics such as web design, mobile app development, data structures, and algorithms. All classes in the PINC program are new and especially designed for biologists.

In the PINC program, biology majors will complete 15 units of computer science course work (5 courses spread over 4 semesters) that will allow the students to earn an “Emphasis in Computer Science”.

We invite you to explore this exceptional educational and research opportunity at SF State and if you are excited about the program, we hope that you’ll apply as soon as possible!


Applications are due on May 1st, 2016 to start in the fall of 2016. You can apply on the following website:


For a description of the courses that are part of PINC, have a look here.

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