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Project Description

In the past, whenever computationally challenging problems were encountered in a field, usually the solution was that computer scientists/engineers learned the background in that field and figured out a way of solving the problems. A good example is the numerous computational biology/bioinformatics programs in computer science departments in the United States. This solution works fine provided there are only a few fields that need the significant computational support from computer scientists. However, when the challenges are from all the fields, or go beyond the research fields and reach every work place, this solution becomes unsustainable. A more sustainable way is extending the scope of computational thinking education to all the fields.

The digitalization of all Americans' health records and the advance of high throughput biomedical technologies will produce huge amount of electronic health information. Properly manage and make full use of these data will greatly benefit all Americans. Every American may have the opportunity to receive more effective, efficient, and personalized health care. However, lack of sufficient training on computational thinking in the health science education will seriously limit the usage of these valuable data.

In this project, we will focus on enhancing computational thinking ability of health science students. We refer this as "Health Computing". The location of the starting point for this project will be the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at University of Pittsburgh. The general goal of this proposed project is to strengthen computational concepts, methods, and tools in the undergraduate education of health science students using highly health science relevant course materials, updated curricula, and other activities. The following are more specific goals, objectives and desired outcomes.

Creation of future leaders with expertise in health science and computing

In traditional health science education, there is no strong computing component. After completion of a series of new computing courses/modules with emphases in computational thinking, our students will be more competitive than the students who only receive traditional health science education and will become future leaders with expertise at the interface of computing and health science.

Integration of research into undergraduate education

It has been proven that integrating research into the undergraduate curriculum encourages students to be more active learners and have stronger interest in scientific discovery. In this project, after the students have basic computer science knowledge and foundation courses in health science, they will be offered the opportunities to take courses with an original research component. In these courses, the student will not passively receive information from the instructors, but actively seek scientifically reasonable solutions. The first-hand research experience may also encourage them to pursue a scientific discovery career in the future.

Increase in high school students interest in pursuing a career in health science

In the outreach component of this project, we will provide summer programs to high school students in which they will learn more about our programs and receive training to strengthen their computational thinking ability.

Promotion of the formation of partnerships

In this project, the participating faculty members are from different research fields, such as computer science, information science, education, mathematics, bioinformatics, epidemiology, business management, computational biology, and health information management. Through this project, we will have the opportunity to develop partnerships which will make it possible for us to solve larger scale research problems together in the future and engage students in truly interdisciplinary research activities.