1:17 p.m., May 27, 2014–The Bioinformatics Student Association (BiSA), a registered student organization at the University of Delaware, has been selected to receive assistance from the National Center for Women and Information Technology Academic Alliance (NCWIT) Student Seed Fund to support its outreach initiatives. 

Pictured are (from left) Julie Cowart, vice president of the Bioinformatics Student Association; Erin L. Crowgey, BiSA president; and Priscilla Moraes, CISters coordinator. Missing from the picture is Boyu Zhang, CISters coordinator.

NCWIT has partnered with Symantec to offer the Student Seed Fund and awards are given to student-run programs and initiatives that promote increased participation of women in computing and IT programs. The goal is to recruit, retain, and support women in computing.

To date, the NCWIT Student Seed Fund has provided outreach, mentoring, peer support, training, and professional development opportunities to more than 1,750 elementary middle school, high school, undergraduate, and graduate students.

BiSA will use the NCWIT Student Seed Fund to develop inquiry-based activities for middle school and high school students visiting the Delaware Biotechnology Institute (DBI). Participants will have direct interactions with top female graduate students in the fields of computer science and bioinformatics, and will be given the opportunity to participate in exciting activities that will teach them about cutting-edge technologies and applications in bioinformatics.

BiSA will have the support of the CISters for promoting computer science during the outreach events.  CISters is a group of undergraduate, graduate, and faculty women in technology-driven fields at the University of Delaware.

The planned activities will expose students to how computer science can be applied to real-world problems, and will encourage young female students to consider careers in computer science and/or bioinformatics. For example, one of the planned activities will be centered on human genome sequencing and how computer skill sets are an essential component for analyzing and interpreting biological data. 

Students will be recruited through DBI’s Science for All Delawareans (S4DE) initiative, DBI’s signature outreach program to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The S4DE initiative includes hosting of students from local schools and student organizations to provide an engaging experience that inspires participants to become more interested in STEM education. Students interact with scientists performing the work and are exposed to the cutting-edge research being performed right here in Delaware.

BiSA was recently founded in an effort to bring together students studying/interested in the field of bioinformatics and is supported by the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (CBCB) and the Department of Computer and Information Sciences. The goal of BiSA is to facilitate the exchange of ideas, information and knowledge through newly formed collaborations with fellow University of Delaware students.