Week 1

This week I started my DREU experience at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. I had never been to the midwest or done computer science research, so I was pretty excited to come here and experience something new.


The Campus

The first thing I noticed about Minnesota is that everything is really huge. I think somebody told me that the university has something like 50,000 students, a big difference from the few thousand at Tufts. My first day (I arrived on Sunday) I explored the campus and I spent most of the walk with my neck craned staring up at all of the huge, beautiful buildings, all of them with multiple stories and most of them with imposing pillars and red brick facades.

My dorm is a six-story, newly renovated building reminiscent of a modern hotel in which they gave me a dingle, a single that’s meant for two people (people here gave me odd looks when I used that apparently Tufts term). I’m hoping to explore Minneapolis this weekend, so I can talk about that next week, but overall, this campus is really beautiful and huge, oh and much flatter than Tufts.

The Program

The DREU participants as well as some students from UMN are all particpating with the students in the computer science department’s Big Data REU program here. The first day we had orientation in the morning and then broke off with our research groups after lunch. All of the students in the program were really nice, and most of them were from the midwest which was interesting. They asked me about New Jersey, which was new because I’ve never been from a minority location, usually there are a million other Jersey kids around.

I met two of the graduate students in my lab group because my mentor was away at a conference, and they explained their projects, which were pretty cool. Our lab focuses on genetic interactions, and one of them looked at yeast gene interactions to learn about genetic modes of action and one of them looked at gene interactions in corn with more agricultural applications.

So far, I’ve had one Big Data Technical Training course and one Communicating Science workshop, which is cool because I get to spend time with the other students in the program and learn about different languages and things like GitHub and LaTex. For my research this week, I’ve tried to get accustomed to the lab, got my project (which you can read about in the Project section), realized I know much less of Linux than I thought, and started researching! I’ve also started learning Python, which is cool but also a little frustrating trying to learn a new language because it’s slower moving (I’ve mostly just worked with C++ and C, and some MATLAB of which I am not the hugest fan). I’ve also started using AutoDock which is docking software used to dock ligands (small molecules like drug candidates) into proteins. I’m really excited about my project, and I can’t wait to start coding more and getting more results!