Since 2017, the annual Quantitative Biosciences Hands-On Modeling Workshop has aimed to introduce students and faculty of all skill levels and backgrounds to the use of computational modeling in studying biological systems. For the past two years, these workshops have been held virtually, reaching over 150 attendees from around the world with the apt theme of modeling epidemics.
This summer, organizers welcomed 45 attendees for an in-person workshop for the first time since 2019.
“While virtual workshops have some benefits — for example being able to reach a larger audience — being in-person is so much more conducive to forming connections with people,” shared J.C. Gumbart, associate professor in the School of Physics and associate director of the Quantitative Biosciences Ph.D. program at Georgia Tech. “One of my favorite parts of workshops is just sitting and chatting with participants one-on-one about their research background and interests, something that’s very hard to do over Zoom.”
Organized by the first-year Quantitative Biosciences (QBioS) and the NIH T32 Integrative and Quantitative Biosciences Accelerated Training Environment (InQuBATE) cohorts, this year’s two-day workshop highlighted how computational modeling can be applied to better understand gene expression. As no prior modeling or even programming experience was necessary to attend, the in-person workshop was open to graduate students, scientists, and faculty members from any field of research.
The workshop opened with a lecture on the event’s theme, stochastic gene expression, delivered by Adriana Lucia-Sanz, postdoctoral researcher in the Weitz Group at Georgia Tech, which is led by Joshua Weitz, professor and Tom and Marie Patton Chair of Biological Sciences and founding director of the Quantitative Biosciences program. The attendees then broke into smaller groups led by organizers to work through hands-on modeling tutorials in various programming languages.
“The thing that I enjoyed the most was the group cultures that formed among the workshop groups,” shared Chris Zhang, a first-year Ph.D. student in Quantitative Biosciences and one of the workshop’s organizers. “I was incredibly happy at the quantity and quality of new relationships and connections that were made during this workshop.”
For first-year student Siya Xie, “the best memory was definitely the experience of our first-year cohort working together.”
The event closed with a plenary lecture on how randomness affects the biology and behavior of living cells by Ido Golding, professor of biological physics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
The annual gathering “has been quite revealing,” shared Hameed Sanusi, an attendee and Georgia State University bioinformatics graduate student. “I was glad to be part of this workshop — and more glad to have worked with budding scientists and professionals from the Atlanta area.”
“Hopefully,” added Zhang, “the participants learned a lot about how to think about biology from a quantitative perspective.”