2017 Annual q-Bio Summer School Held at CSU

Participants in the q-bio Summer School at Colorado State University pose for group photo, June 5, 2017.

This past summer, CSU hosted the 11th Annual q-bio Summer School in the Suzanne and Walter Scott, Jr. Bioengineering Building. The two-and-a-half week qbSS enrichment program was attended by more than 100 participants, including 33 competitively-selected visiting graduate students and postdocs who represented top universities from all over the world.

Quantitative biology, or q-bio, is an emerging interdisciplinary field that encompasses many different approaches to modeling, understanding, predicting, and manipulating biological processes. Since its launch in 2007, the purpose of the q-bio Summer School is to provide comprehensive scientific training and career advancement opportunities to students who wish to explore this growing field of scientific inquiry.

The thriving qbSS program was brought to Colorado in 2015 by CBE Professor Brian Munsky, who organized the event and secured sponsorships to subsidize student and lecturer travel. Professor Munsky has participated in qbSS since its inception, and has been a lead organizer since 2010, when he was the Richard P. Feynman Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow in Theory and Computing at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. “The quality of students, faculty, and mentors at the qbSS has improved every year since 2007, and we have become the world’s premier training program for quantitative methods in biology,” said Professor Munsky, “Holding this program in Fort Collins helps to cement CSU’s role as a leader in this rapidly expanding field.”

The 12-day experience involved more than 110 different lectures, poster sessions, student talks, discussion panels, and mentored-course projects. Of the 26 lecturers that participated, four lecturers were qbSS alumni, and 17 institutions were represented. The program was led by faculty members from CSU and collaborating institutions, as well as multi-level industry experts.

The main topics of the 2017’s qbSS program included cell signaling, cancer dynamics, single-cell gene regulation, and computational synthetic biology. The three main CSU organizers were Professors Brian Munsky (CBE), Ashok Prasad (CBE) and Patrick Shipman (MATH).  Professor Munsky lectured on topics related to single-cell gene regulation while Drs. Prasad and Shipman lectured on topics related to computational synthetic biology, including dynamical systems biology, limit cycles, and oscillations. Both Drs. Prasad and Shipman have participated in qbSS since 2015.

The program offered general seminars for both q-Bio students and the general public. Moreover, theme-specific breakout sessions were offered to registered students, and the program also offered eight different career discussion panels. Panelists included CSU Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Dan Bush, President of the CSU Postdoc Association Mario Oyola, and dozens more ranging from postdocs to senior university administrators.

Participants in the q-bio Summer School at Colorado State University participate in a breakout session lecture, June 5, 2017.

Students who were polled on their qbSS experience agreed that the broad range of topics and flexibility of the program were accommodating. “The organizers created an extremely welcoming environment that set the stage for the whole course. As for the lectures, almost everyone was useful and interesting, and they were appropriately spaced out. It was also great having some free time to hang out with the other students and explore Fort Collins!” mentioned an anonymous student participant.

“This summer school will have a significant impact as I have learned an enormous amount. Having the broad introduction has given me appreciation of the field of q-Bio and the chance to conduct a project that represents my interest. It’s a topic that is critical today and in the future,” said another anonymous student participant.

Drawing upon qbSS’s success, Prof. Munsky and collaborators Dr. Lev Tsimring (UCSD) and Dr. William S. Hlavacek (LANL) have just completed editing for a q-Bio textbook to cover material related to the qbSS program.  This textbook will include 30 chapters contributed by 75 authors, most of whom are former qbSS students and lecturers. This community-written book is scheduled to be published by MIT Press in 2018, and is expected to be adopted for use in q-Bio classes around the world.

“q-Bio has created and nurtured an enthusiastic and highly successful community of interdisciplinary scientists at the interface of mathematics, computation and biology. The qbSS program is helping to transform bioscience as we know it, and its impact will be felt for many decades to come,” added Professor Munsky.

qbSS’s 400+ alumni are now among the nation’s top young faculty and researchers in the integrated fields of quantitative biology, many of whom are developing and conducting q-Bio research and teaching programs. With such impactful results, Dr. Munsky is inspired to secure sponsors to ensure the future of the program. “We hope qbSS can continue to provide young scientists and engineers with the skills and resources to solve tomorrow’s most pressing bioscience and biomedical challenges.”

For more information on q-Bio and the qbSS program, visit http://q-bio.org/wp/.