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Oesper GS selected for supercomputing event

Oesper’s computer science research could advance understanding of the biological basis of cancer

Computer science student Layla Oesper GS has been selected to participate in the 25th annual SuperComputing13 conference in Denver this November.

Oesper is a fourth-year doctoral student who said she uses computer science to interpret the billions of base pairs that make up cancer genomes. Interpreting this mass of biological data may help biologists to better understand what causes cancer and to better treat it, she added.

Oesper was chosen along with two other Rhode Island students by Rhode Island’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, an organization composed of members from nine Rhode Island colleges and universities that works to promote statewide scientific efforts, according to a press release on the organization’s website.

Supercomputing is about analyzing data, Oesper said. As technology has evolved, scientists have “had to be on the forefront of dealing with massive quantities of data,” she said.

The conference will feature presentations by supercomputing researchers from around the world, according to the press release. Eighty-five students, selected from over 300 applicants, will volunteer at the conference, the press release reported.

Edward Hawrot, associate dean of biology and professor of molecular pharmacology, physiology and biotechnology, is the co-principal investigator of EPSCoR. He asked Oesper’s advisor, Ben Raphael, associate professor of computer science, to recommend a Brown scholar for the conference. Raphael described Oesper as a “perfect fit” because her work has “compelling and high impact implications,” adding that “Layla is a great role model for female computer scientists.”

Oesper said she enjoys her work because she “never know(s) what’s going to happen on any given day.” She works not only to interpret data but also to explain it to scientists from various disciplines. “If I’m giving a talk about the same information to a room of biologists or computer scientists, that talk is going to be different,” Oesper said.

“I’m excited because this conference is a little outside of my bubble,” she said. “It is an intersection of a lot of different communities.”


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