The Pre-College Program in Computational Biology

Carnegie Mellon University Pre-College Programs


Pittsburgh, PA


Jul 1 - Jul 21




Scholars will take a deep dive into the world of computer science through a combination of classroom instruction, hands-on research projects, faculty lectures, and industry engagement with leading tech companies around the country. The Pre-College Program in Computational Biology provides extensive training in both cutting-edge laboratory experiments to generate biological data and the computational analysis of the data that these experiments generate. Computer science has revolutionized biology and medicine. Tomorrow's life scientists need deep knowledge of not only the laboratory techniques for generating experimental data but also the rigorous computational techniques necessary to analyze and model these data. The Pre-College Computational Biology program offers an unparalleled experience for high school students to explore this relationship in a university setting. The work in the program focuses on answering big-picture biological questions about the microbes living in Pittsburgh’s three rivers as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. After sampling water from one of Pittsburgh’s three rivers, students will use modern laboratory techniques to isolate the bacterial DNA from the water and break the DNA strands into millions of tiny fragments that are then read. The question, then, is what to do with all this information? This is where computational biology flies to the rescue. The program is structured to allow students to appreciate the inherent synergy between experimentation and computational analysis in modern biology. We will spend approximately half of each day of the program following a hackathon model, in which students will work in small groups to write programs solving computational problems, with hands-on guidance from the instructor and teaching assistants. Students will spend the other half of each day in the laboratory, conducting experiments to generate large datasets to be analyzed with student code. Carnegie Mellon University is a leader in automated science, and as part of the experimental side of the program, students will get the chance to work in the automation lab. They will use robots to run experiments while learning how machine learning can be used in the design and execution of experiments.

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