Sam Rysdyk at the Hackathon

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Several weekends ago, BC2 and KTB IT Project Manager Sam Rysdyk had the pleasure and unique experience of attending the Komen Breast Cancer Hackathon 2023 in Dallas, TX. The hackathon was a weekend-long challenge where a group of strangers with different experiences were teamed up and given a problem to solve. It's part marathon, part sprint and a complete whirlwind of activity. Sam’s group included seven people and had the challenge of investigating the metabolism of the tumor microenvironment in breast cancer. His group comprised one MD, two PhDs, three graduate students, and one undergrad.


 By the end of the weekend Sam’s group developed a program that can analyze RNA-Seq data and produce a quantitative measurement of the metabolism in the tumor microenvironment in a very efficient manner. Currently, metabolic analysis is done in a rather qualitative fashion. They hope that a quantitative measure can help with consistency in this area of treatment and research.


 The groups started on Friday evening, worked all day Saturday and Sunday morning, and then on Sunday evening presented their projects. The top three teams out of nine were award prizes. The competition was close, and all the groups had interesting projects. We are happy to say Sam’s team was awarded 2nd place overall! A team led by IU Researcher Dr. Hari Nakshatri was awarded 1st overall. We think it's pretty cool that IU and the KTB were represented among the winners.


 One thing Susan G. Komen did really well was recruiting a diverse group of participants. Over 40% of the participants were women, which is good considering only 25% of STEM majors are women and even fewer than that are computer science majors. There was also racial, ethnic, age, educational, and geographic diversity. Sam shared that he had never been in a room with so many accomplished and interesting people who care about cancer research, and it was really something special. Sam commends Komen HQ for taking that part of their mission seriously. A big thank you to Komen, UT Southwestern, the UTSW BioHPC team, and the Lyda Hill Foundation for making this happen.