Karina_Bhavsar - Bioinformatics Pathway

Why I joined:

In the June session, I was able to take the position of Project Management Lead Support, and I saw how the entirety of the session was managed, and gained a lot of technical knowledge. I was extremely interested in learning about the field and applications of bioinformatics, learning R programming, and applying the textbook knowledge I had accumulated. Seeing how so many people collaborated and learned together inspired me to push myself, and become a Project Lead in the July session. In being a Lead, I was able to not only improve my technical skills, but also my soft skills, by working closely with a team of passionate observers, participants, and mentors.

Things Learned:

Technical Area

  • Working with multiple data sets, merging data, and batch correction
  • Normalization methods
  • Functional analysis techniques, including GSEA analysis
  • Transcription factor analysis
  • Survival analysis on GEPIA
  • Interpreting results, and applying biological context to the graphs and data found


  • Bioconductor packages
  • GSEA
  • MSigDB

Soft Skills

  • Presenting information, and hosting presentations on various topics (both technical and non-technical)
  • Leading the team, in meetings, and by providing mentorship to the sub-teams and interns
  • Integrating the knowledge and skills of varying degrees of the different participants to make the most effective groups
  • Communicating effectively with all members of the pathway, including the project management leads, the project leads, the team members, and the industry mentors

Tasks Completed:

  • Lead the weekly team meetings, in which the agenda for the week was presented, addressed questions for the previous week and upcoming week, and determined the sub-team assignments (which member would act as the task lead)
  • Lead weekly presentations of the deliverables, and provided constructive feedback to the team members
  • Provided help to the interns, answering questions relating to the biological applications or aspects of the project
  • Lead discussions, and presented information on topics such as the importance of networking, cultural competency, and resume building
  • Created an outline for a predominantly verbal presentation on the importance of networking, including various instances and personal accounts in which networking was beneficial for one’s career development, and a template that interns could use for LinkedIn connections
  • Created a presentation for Resume Building, and addressed how different peoples’ occupations should affect their resume, such as what highschoolers, college students, and industry professionals should focus on
  • Created a comprehensive document for the weekly deliverables, in which the code was alongside explanations for the specific part(s) of the code, and context was given for the graphs and data
  • Attended Happy Hours, getting to know team members from my team and other teams
  • Provided comprehensive instructions, and guidance, to the interns for the final project

Challenges Faced:

  • One of the challenges that I faced was connecting with and engaging the team members, given that we were only able to interact briefly online twice a week. In order to address this, we encouraged the team members to turn on their cameras, attend happy hours, and we played multiple icebreaker games.
  • There were multiple members of the team who were unresponsive, or had difficulty working with other team members due to being in different time zones. I was able to help reassign the subteams, so that the team members who were in similar time zones were able to work together, and so the team members in each subteam had diverse experiences with bioinformatics, and differing areas of expertise. We were able to contact the unresponsive members and encourage them to attempt a final presentation.
  • Answering many of the technical questions that the interns had was difficult, as it was tough to address many of the specific questions that were posed. I was able to spend time preparing materials and resources that the interns could consult to find the answers to their questions. I created a document containing the code that could be used to complete the deliverables with explanations for the code, and context for the data and results, with the help of my co-lead.

Further Goals/Reflections:

This experience helped me grow as a leader, as I was able to work with a team of talented and motivated individuals, and lead the team through a challenging project. Over the course of the internship, I was able to improve my presentation skills and become more adept at solving issues that popped up while under time pressure, in addition to improving my technical knowledge and R programming skills. I constantly try to push myself outside of my comfort zone to improve my knowledge and skills through hard work and perseverance, and although I had gathered knowledge and acquired preliminary skills in the first session, I was able to hone my skills and push my boundaries once again in the July session. I know that the skills and knowledge I have acquired in this STEM-Away internship will help me in the future.