All posts by ajlee

Striking while the data is hot with AnVIL: Manipulating bioinformatics data with a great new opportunity for students and teachers

Thrilled to be starting work with the AnVIL and the curriculum development team to bring the power of this computational genomics research system to students and teachers all across the country! Through Johns Hopkins University and NIH’s genome research branch (NHGRI), college faculty from around the country are coming together to design curriculum and classroom lab exercises to teach students how to use this powerful data resource.

What would you like to do with genetic data? What would you like to investigate? Send in your questions or project suggestions for consideration!

What is AnVIL?

The task of turning the masses of generated biology healthcare data into useful information has been a problem since the advent of genetic sequence data production. With exponential increase in genomic data produced over the last 10 years, researchers are swimming in data. Without a centralized system for storing data generated in labs, datasets were not freely comparable because of silo-like storage. AnVIL, a data storage project sponsored by the NIH’s NHGRI uses Google cloud storage to serve anyone interested in computational genomics research.

This means students, teachers, and anyone curious who has internet access large data sets and run analytic programs. The promise of the internet breaking down barriers to information is finally being realized for genetics data.

Summer Pre-Med Opportunity (Info Session) – SHPEP

Zoom Info Session: Monday, Feb 1, 6pm EST

SHPEP is a free summer enrichment program focused on improving access to information and resources for college students interested in the health professions. SHPEP’s goal is to strengthen the academic proficiency and career development of students underrepresented in the health professions while preparing them for a successful matriculation to health professions schools.

During this session, attendees will hear directly from program sites, who are reviewing applications, to learn more about what they have to offer and how they will implement the program. You’ll also receive the perspective recent SHPEP scholars to give you their insights about the program.

As you may know, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, physical distancing guidelines, and the closure of some campuses, SHPEP will again be a 100% virtual experience in summer 2021. The pandemic necessitated virtual implementation of SHPEP in 2020, and we are proud that the program was successfully delivered online to more than 930 scholars last summer.

Zoom registration here:

Time to get your flu shot!

Let’s all pitch in and get our flu shot during this difficult pandemic time! Though the seasonal flu immunization is not always on the minds of the young and the healthy, let’s do our part by getting the vaccine to prevent the chance of contracting flu and COVID. If you’re uneasy about the flu shot, review the attached information about the flu vaccine (this is the CDC handout that is given out when you receive a flu shot). Many employees and nearly all insurance will cover the cost of a flu shot. Many county health departments also provide for free access for those not covered by insurance.

CDC Seasonal Flu Vaccine

Learn Directly from the Experts on Vaccine Development (& Safety)

Many students (and non-students alike) have expressed concern about vaccine safety and wondered how a COVID-19 vaccine can be made on an accelerated timeline. They question safety and doubt effectiveness because speed is presumed to translate into sloppiness. However, vaccine research (prior to the COVID pandemic) has focused on how to make all-purpose delivery mechanisms that are then custom tailored to a particular pathogen. If you’d like to dive into the details and see how researchers have done this, years in advance of COVID, watch a lecture by NIH researchers at:

Read on paper

A Washington Post article “Screen Reading Can Wear on Your Attention” (January 2020) reinforces a commonly expressed idea that reading on printed paper improves reading comprehension when compared to reading on a screen. Especially during COVID, the push to the work online has intensified the time spent staring at glowing screens for prolonged periods of reading.
The Post article brings up additional problems with the push to digital:
•Unlike a printed book or article, digital content is often viewed as interchangeable and short-lived. There is less importance placed on treasuring a digital file (and valuing it as an important part of a published collection that is to be kept for many years). Instead, we’ll move on to the next webpage, digital download, or temporarily borrowed digital file. The digital content appears out of magic and equally easily disappears when a loan expires or the file is lost on a device in the midst of other files that don’t stick out. Having a pile of curated books, articles to read, or, gasp, magazine, that physically demand attention and aren’t invisibly tucked away in the innards of a computer may motivate the reader to attack the pile and not idly watch TV.
•Committing to read a digital book or webpage may not entail the same commitment as a physical product. The book or webpage is likely being viewed on a device that is connected to the internet, with a capable web browser, or app, that is an open invitation to distracted reading. Your facebook feed is only a click away, a sports highlight is also at the fingertips, as well as every movie ever made. Do you really want to read that Biology textbook on evolution and fossils when you can watch the new release on Netflix by tapping the screen three times?
It may also be nearly irresistible to avoid that targeted ads that follow you when you are attempting to read a relevant webpage related to your studies. Wow, Amazon reminded me that I didn’t buy that pair of shoes.
University research by European and Middle-Eastern scholars show that dense information (typically found in science texts) is more difficult to read on a screen than breezy narratives (the backbone of English lit or history classes). So perhaps reading that science textbook or printing out PDFs will improve comprehension and retention of material?
Worth considering how you read, as much as what you read!

Bored at home? Wanna take classes for free?

Harvard University is offering 70 of its online classes for free (liberal arts, science, computer science). Though you won’t earn credits or receive a diploma/certificate, you can use your time to: prepare for a future class, investigate an area of interest, and stay focused on your education.  Of particular note in Harvard’s online offerings: their high production values and effective use of videos with the professor and text/image overlays.

For more information, visit:

Free & Reduced Price High Speed Internet

To be certain that low income students can access high-bandwidth internet, Comcast is offering 60 days of free internet. Low ~$10/month price after that, with no contract. Expect 1 week shipping time and evidence of low-income status is required.

Also, college will keep one open computer lab on each campus open with regular deep cleanings.

Check out the website below for additional details:

Beyond DIY 3D prints

Print the parts for a $100 drone!

Existing .stl files suitable for 3D printing (via the TILT lab) can be found at sites such as Experiment with a variety of pre-made items from handy kitchen items to plastic wallets. The science section features air-powered balloons, handy ionic bond models,  a self-starting siphon, and the drone aircraft shown above.

The journey to college and the documentary film “Personal Statement”

The transfer process (including  applications) can be intimidating! If you are unsure about the process, want to ask questions, learn about free resources to help you, or just meet other people (to remind yourself that you’re not the only one struggling along), head to NVCC-Woodbridge on Wed. March 25 at 2pm for a free screening of the documentary film Personal Statement. The event is free but requires registration. Follow the link below (please let me know if the link does not work):