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Educating and engaging new communities of practice with high performance computing through the integration of teaching and research

Townsend-Nicholson, A; (2020) Educating and engaging new communities of practice with high performance computing through the integration of teaching and research. Interface Focus , 10 (6) , Article 20200003. 10.1098/rsfs.2020.0003. Green open access

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Abstract

The identification of strategies by which to increase the representation of women and increase diversity in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), including medicine, has been a pressing matter for global agencies including the European Commission, UNESCO and numerous international scientific societies. In my role as UCL training lead for CompBioMed, a European Commission Horizon 2020-funded Centre of Excellence in Computational Biomedicine (compbiomed.eu), and as Head of Teaching for Molecular Biosciences at UCL from 2010 to 2019, I have integrated research and teaching to lead the development of high-performance computing (HPC)-based education targeting medical students and undergraduate students studying biosciences in a way that is explicitly integrated into the existing university curriculum as a credit-bearing module. One version of the credit-bearing module has been specifically designed for medical students in their pre-clinical years of study and one of the unique features of the course is the integration of clinical and computational aspects, with students obtaining and processing clinical samples and then interrogating the results computationally using code that was ported to HPC at CompBioMed's HPC Facility core partners (EPCC (UK), SURFsara (The Netherlands) and the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre (Spain)). Another version of the credit-bearing module has, over the course of this project, evolved into a replacement for the third year research project course for undergraduate biochemistry, biotechnology and molecular biology students, providing students with the opportunity to design and complete an entire specialist research project from the formulation of experimental hypotheses to the investigation of these hypotheses in a way that involves the integration of experimental and HPC-based computational methodologies. Since 2017–2018, these UCL modules have been successfully delivered to over 350 students—a cohort with a demographic of greater than 50% female. CompBioMed's experience with these two university modules has enabled us to distil our methodology into an educational template that can be delivered at other universities in Europe and worldwide. This educational approach to training enables new communities of practice to effectively engage with HPC and reveals a means by which to improve the underrepresentation of women in supercomputing.

Type: Article
Title: Educating and engaging new communities of practice with high performance computing through the integration of teaching and research
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1098/rsfs.2020.0003
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsfs.2020.0003
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: high-performance computing, university education, next-generation sequencing, computational biology, medical student, experimental-computational workflow
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Structural and Molecular Biology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10114243
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