In 1989 under the direction of Scientific Specialist Dr. Hugh B. Nicholas Jr., the NIH Research Resource (now known as the National Resource for Biomedical Supercomputing [NRBSC] ) at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center [PSC] began conducting training workshops in computational field then known as nucleic acid and protein sequence analysis aimed at graduate students and faculty from major research universities.

Dr. Nicholas soon sought and received independent funding from the National Human Genome Research Institute to provide workshops in bioinformatics at the PSC for the next 15 years. In 1998 the University of California at Davis, engaged Dr. Nicholas and the NRBSC to extend and adapt the workshop training materials into a three credit graduate level course in Bioinformatics to be taught on the Davis Campus. A year, a grant from the Howard Hughes foundation enabled Dr. Nicholas and his long-term colleagues, Dr. David Deerfield II and Mr. Alexander Ropelewski to adapt the course material for an undergraduate bioinformatics course at the University of Pittsburgh. Also that same year, Dr. Ricardo Gonzalez Mendez, a long term colleague from The University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus, began discussions with the group about the potential to to provide assistance to help with the establishment of bioinformatics coursework at several minority-serving institutions.

The success of these initial efforts at UC Davis and the University of Pittsburgh along with the community need identified by Dr. Gonzalez helped redirect NRBSC's bioinformatics training towards assisting minority serving institutions establish coursework in Bioinformatics. With funding from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of General Medical Sciences through the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program, a four-part program was launched to:

  • Train interdisciplinary faculty at an annual summer institute in bioinformatics.
  • Strengthen bioinformatics programs at minority serving institutions including assistance in the establishment of new coursework in bioinformatics on campus.
  • Provide a five week research internship at the NRBSC for students attending minority serving institututions
  • The development of a model curriculum in bioinformatics including coursework in Biology, Computer Science and Mathematics. The initial materials were developed and piloted by collaborators at North Carolina Central University, Johnson C. Smith University, the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, and the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus.
While the program has been highly successful, Dr. Nicholas, Mr. Ropelewski, Dr. Gonzalez sought for a better way to reach more students and introduce bioinformatics to them earlier in their undergraduate careers. Conversations with their colleague, Dr. Jimmy Torres Rodriguez, an expert in instructional design from the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras, encouraged the group to look beyond typical materials. Dr. Troy Wymore, a member of the NRBSC who is an expert in structural modeling began to experiment with interactive web tutorials. Dr. Bienvenido Velez a project member from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez began to experiment by "screen recording" the PowerPoint's with the audio from his lectures and testing to see is students in his classes found them useful. Dr. Torres began experimenting with video recording; recording and editing several of Dr. Gonzalez's and Dr. Nicholas' lectures into short bite-size "talklets". Mr. Ropelewski began to explore open-source learning management systems to see if one of the systems could be easily modified into a system that could tightly integrate computation with learning and multimedia resources.

In the spring of 2009, the group submitted (and in the fall of 2009 was awarded) a supplemental grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a pilot integrated open system for bioinformatics education. The result of this effort is Bioinformatics University.

Last modified: Sunday, 15 January 2012, 10:13 AM