As some of you may know, for the better part of this year, I have been involved in the organization of BCATS 2010 (Biomedical Computation at Stanford), a one-day student-run conference on Stanford’s campus. Yesterday, I had the great privilege of being the chair of this interdisciplinary conference, which featured 14 talks, 10 spotlight/bullet talks, and close to 50 posters (abstract book). However, this conference was not your typical themed meeting. Rather than a conference where everyone in attendance was an expert in the specific narrow field of the conference, BCATS attendees all spoke the same language of computational and statistical analysis, but applied these methods to very different problems across biology and medicine.
The day started with Zemin Zhang from Genentech, for whom we are very grateful to have had deliver the first keynote address, on his work in genomics and computational biology. Dr. Zhang brought a perspective on the power of genome sequencing in understanding the complex biological basis of cancer. From there, the first group of student talks focused on computational approaches to the study of systems biology, from analysis of transcriptomics data to an integrative model of a whole cell. The second session focused on analysis of existing datasets to learn about drugs and learning about their effects and interactions with other drugs. This was a particularly interesting session, as the speakers presented work that applied mathematical and statistical methods to a topic that everyone could understand without too much technical knowledge: clinical use of drugs, including things that can go right and things that can go wrong.
In the afternoon, BJ Fregly from University of Florida provided a fascinating look into personalized therapy for osteoarthritis through simulation of arthritis development, rehabilitation treatment, and forces on knee joints and muscles. In the keynote and the session that followed, the talks stressed the importance of biological models for developing our understanding of various biomechanical and biochemical processes. The final session’s talks brought together multiple sources of data for representation and interpretation of clinical data, reminding us that direct application to a clinical setting is never too far off.
All in all, the conference brought together researchers from across the fields of biocomputation in a unified setting. While the experience taught me more than I’d like to know about the logistics of organizing such an event (along with everything that can go wrong at the last minute), as soon as I sat down and started listening to the first talks, I was reminded of the quality of the science that really goes on here at Stanford. On a more personal note, I would like to thank my co-organizers, Rob Tirrell, Jessica Faruque, Amir Ghazvinian, Matt Demers, and Keyan Salari for all their help throughout, as well as our sponsors and volunteers for their support. It was a great day and I look forward to next year’s conference.