Thursday, June 14, 2012

CSLS Yearly Retreat

One of our local sources of excellence is the undergraduate program in "Computer Science and Computational Biology" which is often nicknamed CSLS. This elite program accepts relatively few students (~20/year) with very high entry grades. The students study both Computer Science and Life Sciences as well as specialized courses. To meet these requirements the program has a very high courseload.

Overcoming the challenges of such a program is often dependent on team spirit. Classes that formed a supporting social group usually had better success and the students felt they learned more and were happier. To help form such interactions we employ various activities, including specialized classes and study sessions for this group. One of the most important activities is the yearly retreat.

In the retreat, which takes place toward the end of the academic term, we take students in all stages of the program together with the teachers and TAs of the program.

The location of the retreat is Hof Dor, a beautiful beach that borders a large nature reserve along on of the most unique shorelines in Israel.

Although we spent two days next to the beach, most of the day was in the lecture hall.

The packed program had talks by senior year students who presented their final project. These projects involve working with researchers at the Hebrew University on a range of topics.

The talks in the retreat serve as a milestone in the project, as they provide a chance to present the research question, methods and results to a supportive audience. For the younger students these talk open a window to current research questions and how computational analysis plays a role in a range of biological studies.

Many credits go to Naomi for mentoring the projects throughout the year and working with the students on the presentations.

In addition we had a a keynote talk by Nathalie Balaban on non-genetic variability in bacteria and it's evolutionary importance.

However, sitting in a hot room listing to talks can be tiring.

To fight the sleepiness, Naomi arranged for an impromptu streach session, and later a musical interlude.

In spite of the heat, many of the talks inspired interesting discussions.

To top things off we ended the meeting with a guided trip in the nature reserve.

Alon and me took advantage of the flat sea to do two quick dives (one in the evening and the other early in the morning) at the local beach.

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