iEvoBio Wrap Up

This past weekend, I hosted the iEvoBio meeting, which follows the annual Evolution meetings. iEvoBio started as a meeting hosted by NESCent, an NSF center for evolutionary biology. In the years since NESCent finished, the meeting has kept going. This is my second time organizing, and I’m perpetually surprised at how this meeting seems to organize itself. The past two meetings, we’ve tried to tackle questions about how to be a computational biologist. How do you write software to do research without that becoming the only thing you do? How do we train people, both in the short term (students, postdocs) and for the biologists of tomorrow (undergraduates)? All the questions that surround our research and determine whether it succeeds or fails.

Below are summaries and video links for the three events we had throughout the day.

Morning Panel

This year’s morning panel was suggested by Joëlle Barido-Sottani. We wanted to get together different folks in evolutionary biology who maintain or have been involved with different types of community models for software development. Our discussion included small questions like how often to release versions of software, but also much larger ones like how to decide the scope of your documentation and how to make sure project contributors receive credit. Our panelists were Joëlle Barido-Sottani (RevBayes), Jerome Kelleher (tskit, stdpopsim), Jon Chang (Homebrew Project), Tim Vaughan (BEAST2), Stephanie Spielman (assorted projects at the evolution-clincal ‘omics interface, especially Alex’s Lemonade Stand) Karen Cranston (assorted projects with NESCent and OpenTree). The discussion can be viewed here.

Early Afternoon Discussion

Dr. Breanna Harris and I presented a talk (slides here) with some basic information about inclusive teaching and active learning. This talk is based on the content of our recent collaborative paper on the same topic. One of the things I like about this paper is that we give lots of examples of different ways we can increase active learning in biology classrooms, including digital spaces. These range from high-effort, extensive intervention to lightweight activities that can be implemented on a moment’s notice. The talk is here.

Afternoon Panel

Finally, the afternoon panel was something Rachel Schwartz and I cooked up. We’ve all wanted to increase the amount of computing in the undergrad curriculum. And we’ve all heard the curriculum is too stuffed as it is. So what if we could integrate computing in existing course work. These approaches are called code-to-learn or compute-to-learn approaches. This panel had five innovative educators discussing how they have integrated computing in their domain coursework. Panelists were Rachel Wright (Smith College), Ashley Ringer McDonald (California Polytechnic State University), Teague O’Mara (Southeastern Louisiana University), Emily Weigel (Georgia Institute of Technology), Rachel Schwartz (University of Rhode Island). A recording of the panel is here.

Final Notes

This was a fantastic meeting. Big thanks to all our panelists and speakers. If you enjoyed our events, consider donating to student travel awards for next year. In prior years, we’ve been able to meet 100% of the need for student and postdoc travel awards to come to our in-person meetings. Additionally, if you are interested in being involved with organizing the meeting, email

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