Campus Pa"R"ty!

Today is two weeks after the Campus Party, the dust has settled! I am looking back at three days of technology, drones, virtual reality, programming and a successful challenge. As Institute for Life Sciences and Chemistry we organized a challenge on the border between Life Sciences and Technology. We started on Thursday the 26rd with an inspiring lecture by Dr. Jan van Erp, TNO. Dr. Van Erp presented on the applications of modern robotics and integrated sensors in the human body. Although he presented us with a future of bionic humans capable of surprising things like lifting a very heavy object, he was realistic. The implications for the human (and animal) health could however be life changing! There are already examples of people with a spinal cord lesion walking, and blind people seeing again.

Of the three cases that were presented, 6 Campuseros (from the UK, Spain, Iran and The Netherlands) took on the "Melanoma Challenge". They set out to work on the challenge for 48 hours, during the festival. To keep them on track, we had communications channels open. The next morning on Friday, the contestants were supposed to present their initial ideas. The group consisted of medical biologists, programmers and medical students. The group presented their plans and on Saturday they had a final pitch before the jury. Considering the complexity of the challenge, the jury was positively surprised by the way the participants were able to present their ideas. They came up with a thorough and well thought-through plan on the use of smart-phone technology in the pre-screening of early melanoma. The group is currently investigating whether and how they can pursue the initial idea. A first step will be to check the intellectual property (i.p.) position. I will assist them wherever possible. The challenge was supported by the company ONTOFORCE that specializes in the search for biomedical information. 

The award that was granted to the contestants was in line with the Campus Party event. All contestants received a Raspberry Pi3, which is not a real pie, but a very small computer. The RPi3 as it is shortly designated is a nifty small device which, if integrated into the proper hardware and network, can function as a hub for remotely controlling devices in you home. When hooked up to a computer screen or TV it can function as a multimedia centre, or as a vintage game arcade. The RPi is also very suitable to use in robotics. To learn more visit the RPi's website.


R Programming
The daily reality of all current research areas is that the growth of available data poses opportunities but also challenges. To get, clean, analyse and visualise this data and to communicate both analysis methods as well as results we will need other tools and skills than we currently use. For the Life Sciences, the open source Statistical Programming Language R is rapidly becoming the standard. R has many applications, that go beyond the Statistical application domain. R is applicable for generating visualisations, machine learning algorithms, data work flows and has a large number of bioinformatics packages available in the "BIOCONDUCTOR" platform. In other words R is a very versatile language with a broad application domain: Worth while to learn R I would say!

Therefore we organised a basic hands-on bootcamp during the Campus Party. In total we had about 40 participants over the course of two days, learning about R. Dr. Els Adriaens, who has a long standing career in statistics and who uses R in her day-to-day practice, was our chief moderator.

Next year the Campus Party will be in Utrecht again: We will be ready with a new challenge, and moRe

Dr. Marc A.T. Teunis, June 2016  
"Beware: once you get to know R, your life will never be the same"