A cyber-linked undergraduate research experience in computational biomolecular structure prediction and design

Rebecca F. Alford, Andrew Leaver-Fay, Lynda Gonzales, Erin L. Dolan, Jeffrey J. Gray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Computational biology is an interdisciplinary field, and many computational biology research projects involve distributed teams of scientists. To accomplish their work, these teams must overcome both disciplinary and geographic barriers. Introducing new training paradigms is one way to facilitate research progress in computational biology. Here, we describe a new undergraduate program in biomolecular structure prediction and design in which students conduct research at labs located at geographically-distributed institutions while remaining connected through an online community. This 10-week summer program begins with one week of training on computational biology methods development, transitions to eight weeks of research, and culminates in one week at the Rosetta annual conference. To date, two cohorts of students have participated, tackling research topics including vaccine design, enzyme design, protein-based materials, glycoprotein modeling, crowd-sourced science, RNA processing, hydrogen bond networks, and amyloid formation. Students in the program report outcomes comparable to students who participate in similar in-person programs. These outcomes include the development of a sense of community and increases in their scientific self-efficacy, scientific identity, and science values, all predictors of continuing in a science research career. Furthermore, the program attracted students from diverse backgrounds, which demonstrates the potential of this approach to broaden the participation of young scientists from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in computational biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1005837
JournalPLoS computational biology
Volume13
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics

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