Bioinformatics Society holds online BioCode competition


Photo courtesy of Bioinformatics Society

Students at three different skill levels competed for prizes of up to $160 at the fifth annual BioCode competition.

On Saturday, April 24, the Jefferson Bioinformatics Society hosted their fifth annual BioCode competition. This event is a free opportunity for middle and high school students across Virginia to learn about computer science in the context of biology through competition and workshops.

After splitting into three different divisions (middle school, basic high school, and advanced high school), students were given three hours to solve ten coding problems about biology. Aside from the competitive portion of the event, there were also workshops, where students could learn more about the topics present in their problems.

“The goal of [BioCode] is to introduce Virginian middle schoolers and high schoolers who attend to what bioinformatics is,” Bioinformatics Society president and senior Harini Somanchi said. “It allows them to learn more about the intersection between biology and computer science.”

Although this is the fifth year the Bioinformatics Society has hosted the BioCode competition, both the planning and event itself looked very different this year due to the virtual environment.

“In other years, there’s about 100-200 people that show up at TJ from different schools across Virginia,” Bioinformatics Society publicist and junior Andrew Wang said. “Reaching out to schools and getting people to sign up was more challenging at first, but luckily, we were able to fix these problems pretty quickly.”

The BioCode competition gives students at other schools the unique opportunity to learn about bioinformatics when they probably would not have gotten the chance to do so otherwise.

“A lot of Virginia middle and high schoolers don’t know what bioinformatics is, so to introduce them to this riveting intersection between biology and coding, we try to make this competition as accessible as it can be for people of any skill level,” Somanchi said.