Artificial Intelligence Lab Participates in Taking the Road Less Traveled Conferenc

April 27, 2010

The Artificial Intelligence Research Laboratory hosted sixteen young women (middle school girls aged 8-12) who participated in the Spring 2010 "Taking the Road Less Traveled" conference organized on April 15 by the Iowa State University Program for Women in Science and Engineering. The conference was aimed at introducing young women to educational opportunities in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM) disciplines. The conference participants were provided with the opportunity to choose a research laboratory to visit so that they could directly interact with and learn from graduate students. Sixteen of the participants chose to visit the Artificial Intelligence Research Laboratory directed by Professor Vasant Honavar to learn about opportunities in Computational Biology. Fadi Towfic (a fourth year Ph.D. student) and Rasna Walia (a first year Ph.D. student) introduced their work on computational approaches to modeling and analysis of biomolecular networks and characterization and prediction of macromolecular interactions, respectively. Fadi introduced them to his research on cross-species comparative analysis of networks of interactions among genes and its application in identifying genes that might play a role in specific diseases. Rasna introduced the students to her research on analysis of protein-RNA complexes and computational prediction of protein residues that are likely to interact with viral RNA. The presentations emphasized the transformative role of computing and computational thinking in the sciences and the need for obtaining adequate exposure to mathematics and related analytical fields at the high school level, in order to pursue majors in sciences or engineering at the college level and beyond. The feedback received from the participants indicates that they really enjoyed their visit to the lab and the interactions they had with Fadi and Rasna. The Artificial Intelligence Research Laboratory plans to host many more such visits in the future.