Many undergraduates understimate the importance of research experience. If you are interested in a career in science, early research experience is instrumental in helping you reach your goals for graduate school or employment. Graduate schools and employers will look very closely at your research experience and letters of recommendation, which can make or break your application.

I am committed to providing a valuable undergraduate research experience, but I also expect you to be committed to it in return. If your goal is to just check a box or for a line item on your resume, please look elsewhere. But if you’re interested in a real-life project and are dedicated to completing a meaningful body of research, resulting in presentations and publications, then my group may be a fit for you.

Prerequisites

I am looking for dedicated undergraduates with experience or interest in both biology and computer science. Our research questions are biological, but our solutions are computational, so your skill with and interested in computer science will be key for you to succeed in my group. I expect new undergraduate lab members to have taken at least 1 computer science course, but the more experience and coursework you have completed in computer science, the better. Completing a useful research output will usually require multiple years, so ideally you will be interested in a long-term project that will build as you approach graduation. But the most important requirement is for you to be intellectually invested in your research experience.

My mentoring approach

My goal will be to develop with you a research project that fits your interests and gives you a meaningful, complete experience. I want your research to both support and complement your traditional coursework – not to be an afterthought. I want you to feel like you belong to a group that will support and help you as you face challenges in your project. I want you to finish your undergraduate experience with a research result you can showcase.

To facilitate this, after an intial phase to make sure my group is the right fit for you, I expect a commitment of at least 10 hours per week during the semester for late-stage undergraduates. I also provide and encourage opportunities for you to continue your research during the summer.

About the lab

The group (http://www.databio.org) occupies wet and dry lab space in the Center for Public Health Genomics. We are also affiliated with the Department of Biomedical Engineering, in the School of Engineering, and Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics and Public Health Sciences in the School of Medicine. I am also affiliated with the Data Science Institute and the Child Health Research Center.

These affiliations across grounds demonstrate the interdisciplinarity and collaboration priority of the group. We make use of UVA’s high-performance cluster (named Rivanna) for computational analysis. Our research is at the interface of computation and biology, drawing on techniques in computer science, data science, bioinformatics, and statistics, and applying them to biological questions in cancer, epigenetics, single-cell analysis, development, and genomics.

Teamwork is the foundation of my research. I’m trying to build a team of intelligent, creative people who are interested in working together to accomplish great things. I use GitHub to build a shared code base so others can benefit from my work, and I hope to build a team that will contribute to this goal. Writing readable, reusable code pays off as we accumulate useful code and re-apply it to new biological systems. I want to challenge the norm in academic computational research of individual scientists writing isolated code, and instead push open, multi-author code development.

If these topics excite you, please read more about our research interests and open source philosophy.

Next steps

If you are interested in these research topics and willing to invest substantial effort, then I’d be delighted to hear from you. Drop a note at including your year, major, availability (how much time you wish to commit), research interests, and level of computational experience.