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High school students learning how big data is transforming health care

Students, wearing 3-D glasses, look at images of vancomycin in the Visualization Room in the Center for Computational Research.

Students, wearing 3-D glasses, look at images of vancomycin, the "antibiotic of last resort," in the Visualization Room in the Center for Computational Research. Photo: Adrian Levesque

By CORY NEALON

Published July 10, 2014

“The workshop immerses students into some of the most exciting and cutting-edge science that’s happening in their backyard.”
E. Bruce Pitman, dean
College of Arts and Sciences

Roughly a dozen high school students have been getting a crash course on how the information age is improving health care and helping Buffalo develop a world-class medical corridor.

The students are taking part in UB’s Eric Pitman Annual Summer Workshop in Computational Science, a two-week long program that introduces high school science students to the use of computer modeling and simulation to solve science and engineering problems.

The workshop was organized by Jeanette Sperhac, a computational scientists at UB's Center for Computational Research (CCR).  

The students have learned how UB researcher Norma Nowak, director of science and technology for UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, uses supercomputers for genomic research. They also have learned how scientists at Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute study proteins to determine what causes diseases.

And earlier this week, they met with Peter Winkelstein, executive director of the Institute for Healthcare Informatics in UB’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, to learn how researchers and doctors are applying information and computer science to improve health care.

The annual summer computing workshop has been hosted UB’s  every year since 1999. Since 2007, it has been held in honor of Eric Pitman, who was a freshman at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute when he passed away in 2007 after a brief illness.

“The workshop immerses students into some of the most exciting and cutting-edge science that’s happening in their backyard,” says E. Bruce Pitman, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Eric Pitman’s father. “It also shows them that opportunities exist here for wonderful careers in science and engineering.”