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From Indiana to India: School of Informatics and Computing helping bridge the international life and computer sciences gap

January 26, 2010

A joint effort between the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI and the National Institute of Technology Calicut (NITC) in India aims to increase international research opportunities among life and computer science scholars. Both institutions have co-founded the first International Symposium on Biocomputing (ISB) to take place February 15th-17th in Calicut, India. Lecturers and presenters representing 14 countries will focus on bioinformatics and biotechnology – two fields of study that bridge the gap between information technology and biology. Organizers hope that resulting collaborations may impact the scientific community’s understanding of biological systems and improve quality of human life.

The symposium is the outcome of an April 2009 visit to NITC by Mathew Palakal, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research at the IU School of Informatics and Computing. Palakal was invited by NITC to give a two-week lecture series on bioinformatics, a discipline prominent in countries like the United States, and its relationship to biotechnology, a leading field of study in India. Recognizing that international divides frequently present barriers to sharing knowledge and research in these areas, Palakal and colleagues at NITC envisioned the symposium as a means to better integrate research thrusts in the areas of bioinformatics and biotechnology.

Both bioinformatics and biotechnology represent the application of information technology to molecular biology, but each is distinctive in its approach. Bioinformatics employs an in silico methodology, using computers and computer simulations to develop hypotheses concerning biological processes. Biotechnology tests and analyzes those hypotheses in vitro, or in controlled environments like a Petri dish. Both disciplines are essential to the translational research process that ultimately allows biologists to conduct in vivo medial testing in animals and humans.

“Bioinformatics and biotechnology are really two sides of the same coin,” said Palakal. “The more we are able to blur boundaries and integrate practices, the more meaningful and effective our research and its impact on quality of human life becomes.” Palakal, the symposium’s Program Chair and an invited speaker, is especially proud of students’ participation in the event as presenters. Highly-ranked papers were selected from more than 120 international student submissions and will include works from bioinformatics graduate students Rini Paul and Satishkumar Ganakammal from the IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI.

The International Symposium on Biocomputing is sponsored by the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), the leading professional body of computer scientists and engineers from across the globe. The Department of Computer and Information Science at the Purdue University School of Science at IUPUI is an additional organizer of this important event. Registration for the symposium is still open. For more details on registration and programming, please visit www.isb2010.org.

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Joanne Lovrinic
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