Academics Connections' outreach goal: 'I can learn anything'

The lasting benefit of taking Academic Connections’ summer course on bioinformatics may not be readily apparent to instructor Ming Wang’s young, eager students.

But Wang, a Ph.D. graduate student at UC San Diego in that fast-emerging field, knows the impact of taking the course will likely be life-changing.

Bioinformatics is a scientific discipline that develops methods and software tools for storing, retrieving, organizing, and analyzing biological data. Dating back to its origins in the early 1970s, the field now has special applications to genetics and genomics.

“The main benefit, right now, is that they’re exposed to this type of high-level, analytical thinking,” said Wang, taking a short break from instructing several dozen high-school students on UC San Diego’s campus. “They’re all curious and obviously very bright. After taking this course, I want them to say to themselves, ‘I can learn anything.’”

A camera crew captures student interaction.

This week, 436 students — ranging from 9th to 12th graders — are immersed in the three-week residential and non-residential summer program.

Another 54 are taking part in a similar one-week program for out-of-state students.

Along with mechanical engineering, fluid mechanics, and robotics, bioinformatics is one of several courses being concurrently offered. Taught at college-level aptitude, these courses are not generally offered in traditional high-school curricula.

“I tell my students, look around, get to know your classmates,” said Wang, “because these are the kinds of very intelligent, creative, analytical people you’ll meet here at UCSD. You get to meet people who are like you.”

An integral part of Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla’s outreach goals, the innovative program showcases the university’s connection with San Diego and beyond.

A video production crew from San Diego’s Cox/Time Warner Channel 4, led by producer/host Sandra Torres, recently spent several days documenting the course and its objectives.

A half-hour program will air on Channel 4 throughout August as part of the station’s ongoing “Salute to Education” tributes.

Posted: 7/18/2014 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

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