Practicum

BIST 918: Practicum (2 credits)

Guidelines for Practicum

Overview 

The practicum is a 2-credit course offered in both semesters. Students will be involved in a research project under the supervision of a GUMC faculty member and/or a qualified professional from another entity (in this case, then there will also be a Department-assigned co-mentor). The work performed for this project will be presented as a poster (in a poster session) and in a project report write-up.

If the primary mentor or supervisor does not have a Master’s degree in Statistics or Bioinformatics, a co-mentor from the Department of Biostatistics, Bioinformatics, and Biomathematics will be assigned.

The committee consists of the mentor(s), the academic advisor, and one other faculty member. The poster session will be open to all students and faculty of the Department. During the poster session, students will receive feedback from their primary mentor and committee members. This feedback will be incorporated into the final grade.

The project is expected to last for 16 weeks with a work load of about 6-8 hours per week. Therefore, if a student spends 4 hours per week, the project will take 32 weeks. The practicum can extend over the summer when the student works with the mentor in their free time. The practicum may not extend over the summer as a summer internship.

Goal

While the consulting class will expose students to short-term projects, the practicum will provide them with an opportunity to implement a combination of the skills they have acquired and to extend them in a limited context. Through the practicum, students will implement the knowledge and methodologies acquired during the formal academic process, gain practical experience and new techniques, improve their communication skills (both written and oral) and develop their capability to work as a team member. It is also designed (so that) the outside party will benefit from the student’s expertise and abilities.

Projects

Projects may be of a methodological or an applied nature. For methodological projects, the research topics will not be beyond the students’ reach. The work may involve some theoretical derivations and some simulations. The topic will typically be carved out of the mentor’s research. Applied projects typically consist of sophisticated data analyses requiring the implementation of state-of-the-art statistical and bioinformatics tools. The research is usually supervised by two faculty members, one in the application area and one in DBBB.

Selection of Projects

The first practicum meeting will be held in December. Mentors will present their projects including expectations and required skills.

Students' Responsibilities

  • Once the preliminary steps have been taken to establish the practicum site and mentor(s), the student must schedule an initial meeting with his/her mentor(s) to discuss the nature and scope of the practicum and to establish goals and expectations.
  • The student must meet with her/his mentor(s) weekly over the practicum period.
  • The project report is a shorter, more flexible format. We like to think of it as a prototype of a paper that you would submit to a scientific journal. Thus, the format of your report should conform to a particular style. However, we require two concrete parts of the report, namely, a clear statement of goals in the introduction, and an expanded description of methodology used, e.g., data analysis and/or statistical methods explanation. Most scientific papers devote only a condensed paragraph to statistical methods. Moreover, some only say what sort of software is used. Both of these are unacceptable for the purposes of the report. (If, for instance, you are planning to use SAS PROCGLM with repeated measures, you have to be able to understand what exactly it means in the context of your project).

Mentors' Responsibilities

  • A formal document is required to explain the goals and expectations for the successful completion of the practicum. The document should specify background and objectives of the study, as well estimated time commitments.
  • Assignments and responsibilities should be in accordance with individual needs and abilities.
  • Weekly meeting with the student on a weekly basis to provide the necessary guidance.
  • Provide students with the opportunity to practice and develop professional skills in a variety of situations.
  • Responsible for the evaluation of the practicum, and the grade assignment, together with the other committee members.