Tuesday, September 11, 2018

OSCAR Student Olga Kukudzhanova Builds a Web Tool to Help Students Understand How Genetic Information in Large DNA Sets can Diagnose Diseases

My name is Olga Kukudzhanova, and I am a rising sophomore pursuing a Computer Science degree in the Volgenau School of Engineering. For my Summer Impact project, I am working to build a web tool that can help students understand how genetic information in large DNA data sets can be used to diagnose diseases. This requires our team to design a basic undergraduate course structure and incorporate that into a web tool that can act somewhat like a virtual lab. In short, the goal of this project is to develop a disease model based on bioinformatics identified in blood from patients with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, a rare lung disease.
The concept of writing a webtool got me interested in this project. I wanted to have a hands-on experience coding a webtool by connecting different programming languages and statistical programs to provide the students with a tool that can help them with their studies in bioinformatics. I was also interested to work with analyzing big data.
During this project, I often delve deep into the code for the web tool, working to ensure that it accurately reads the user input files. With the proper read, the code can then continue to identify the associations of genes in the input file and output calculations done on the genes based on the user’s preferences. In addition, I also work on the user interface portion of the webtool. Furthermore, I test and analyze the code to find ways to make it run more efficiently.
While writing the program, I discovered the basic construction of genes and how they operate in the presence of a disease. I learned the importance of understanding the basics of genetics and the concerns for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis before preparing to write the code. With the discoveries I had, I am able to understand more about the applications of Computer Science and how it can be utilized to make progress in research.