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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Summer programs offer a look into computer science and bioinformatics

EDITORS/PHOTOGRAPHERS: An opportunity to take photos of summer program participants' presentations will be from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Aug. 8 in Science Hall Room 124.

This summer the Department of Computer Science at New Mexico State University offered three programs to get underrepresented groups interested in computer science and bioinformatics.

Thirty-four people are participating in Young Women in Computing, the High School Bioinformatics Summer Program and the College Camp. All three camps are introduced to bioinformatics, which combines biology and computer science by using computational tools to solve biological problems.

"Computer Science is a wonderful department," said Jessica Haebe, program coordinator for the Department of Computer Science and the Center of Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST). "Our department has been awarded several grants, and there is a great deal of research and other unique opportunities that students might not be aware of."

During Young Women in Computing, held July 7-Aug. 8, high school girls receive an opportunity to learn about robotics, animation, Web design and bioinformatics. Rachel Jensen, the program coordinator, said this is the third year the camp has been held.

"Hopefully, this program will get some female students interested in computer science and NMSU," Jensen said. "We would love for them to come here. We already have one student from the camp enrolling in computer science this year."

Participants also are brought back to campus once a month throughout the academic year to hear a female guest speaker with a doctorate, usually in computer science or a related field.

The College Camp, also held July 7-Aug. 8, offers courses in computer and Web programming as well as bioinformatics for community college students from New Mexico, Texas and Arizona. Presentations also will be given to the program participants by Computer Science faculty and various campus organizations.

"We want to give them an introduction to the computer science department at NMSU and to encourage them to pursue a bachelor's degree," Haebe said.

The Bioinformatics Summer Program, focusing on bioinformatics for local high school students, combines with the other two camps. During the bioinformatics portions of camp, students spend part of their day in a computer lab and the rest in a wet lab on campus.

"Bioinformatics is a great field for students that are interested in medicine, biology or computer science," Haebe said.

The students are introduced to some of the tools available in the bioinformatics field and then conduct research on a selected topic. The research is then compiled into a professional poster and presented on the last day of camp. The poster presentations for all program participants will be from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Aug. 8 in Science Hall Room 124.

Haebe and Jensen said that the programs, which are funded by the National Science Foundation, aren't only a great opportunity for the participants, but also for the university because it brings top students to the campus.

The programs' participants are provided with materials, books, lunch and a weekly stipend. Participants in the College Camp and Young Women in Computing receive college credit.

Jensen said Young Women in Computing has received a new grant that will allow them to expand the program to include middle-school students and undergraduate students. She said they also hope to start a mentoring program and get involved in competitions.

For more information call (575) 646-6365.