Modern Software Engineering and Research

A Santa Fe Professional Development Workshop

The Institute for Computing in Research
The Computer Science Alliance

(Sign up with email to distribute our PDF flyer to teachers, or point them to this post)

The Institute for Computing in Research and the Computer Science Alliance will host a professional development workshop, aimed at all teachers in Santa Fe. The course will be taught by Mark Galassi of Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Our goal is to discuss current trends in computer science and software engineering and how they affect curriculum and pedagogy at the middle and high school level.
We will also focus on tools and do hands-on work with the Python, C, and Go languages on the GNU/Linux operating system.
There are no prerequisites except for being a teacher and knowing how to type.
This workshop is free for teachers, but space for part II is limited so please sign up by email soon! Dates are flexible, and individual make-up is possible if you have to miss some of the time slots.

Part I, session 1 – 2020-05-16

14:00 Using a programming editor effectively for Python: emacs, vi, eclipse, others, . . .
14:45 Compiled languages: tour of C/C++, Go, Rust. Memory safety, workflow, and best practices.
16:00 MIT’s “missing semester”: build systems and version control.
16:45 Social snack and chat by videocon.

Part I, session 2 – 2020-05-23

14:00 Software freedom, open-source, proprietary software: what software “runs the world”?
15:00 Internship landscape for students during and after high school.
15:45 Attracting and working with students from underrepresented groups.
16:30 Social snack and chat by videocon.

Part II – 2020-09-12

10:00 GNU/Linux installation and discussion of hardware/software interface. Linux IT.
11:00 Learning to debug compiled programs with the GNU debugger: hands-on, coached tutorial.
12:00 Lunch break
12:45 Using a programming editor part II: hands-on, coached tutorial.
13:45 The landscape of documentation formats: typesetters, word processors, markup, markdown, . . .
14:30 Open discussion.
15:15 Social “high tea” near the plaza, our treat.

Upcoming “women in computer science” event in Santa Fe

(Before the covid-19 presence in New Mexico we were going to have this event on March 31st in Santa Fe. It has been postponed, but we will have it once restrictions on public events lift up.)

The Santa Fe Institute and the Institute for Computing in Research will be showing the documentary CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap which addresses some of the barriers facing women entering computer science fields. We will follow this screening with a panel discussion with four panelists who work on or are affected by the issue of women in computer science.

The documentary synopsis is:

Tech jobs are growing three times faster than our colleges are producing computer science graduates. By 2020, there will be one million unfilled software engineering jobs in the USA. Through compelling interviews, artistic animation and clever flashpoint in popular culture, CODE documentary examines the reasons why more girls and people of color are not seeking opportunities in computer science and explores how cultural mindsets, stereotypes, educational hurdles and sexism all play roles in this national crisis. Expert voices from the worlds of tech, psychology, science, and education are intercut with inspiring stories of women who are engaged in the fight to challenge complacency in the tech industry and have their voices heard. CODE aims to inspire change in mindsets, in the educational system, in startup culture and in the way women see themselves in the field of coding.

A link to the documentary preview is at

Here are links to information about the panelists:

From their biographical paragraphs at the Institute:

Leina Gries is a student at Pomona College, where she plans to study computer science and biology in pursuit of a career in computational biology. Leina has a strong interest in researching the connections between computing and the natural sciences and has been a co-developer of the “Serious programming – small courses” curriculum and textbook with Mark Galassi. A graduate of Santa Fe’s Desert Academy, Leina is the recipient of the Los Alamos National Laboratory foundation Gold Scholarship, and is also Desert Academy’s 2019 Valedictorian. When not doing scientific work, Leina can be found volunteering with an equine therapy program, dancing, tutoring, or caring for her many fish. Leina is a co-founder and alumna of the Institute for Computing in Research.

Melanie Mitchell is the Davis Professor of Complexity at the Santa Fe Institute, and Professor of Computer Science (currently on leave) at Portland State University. Her current research focuses on conceptual abstraction, analogy-making, and visual recognition in artificial intelligence systems. Melanie is the author or editor of six books and numerous scholarly papers in the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and complex systems. Her book Complexity: A Guided Tour (Oxford University Press) won the 2010 Phi Beta Kappa Science Book Award and was named by as one of the ten best science books of 2009. Her latest book is Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux). Melanie is a lecturer and mentor at the Institute for Computing in Research.

Ashley Teufel is a biologist, computer scientist and mathematician at the Santa Fe Institute

All of biological life is the result of simple biochemical reactions and the diversity of life that we see today has been ~3.5 billion years in the making. Although, over most of this time the biosphere was dominated by prokaryotic and unicellular species. A dramatic shift in the complexity of life occurred ~0.55 billion years ago, and all the major groups of multicellular animals begin to appear in the fossil record. The goal of Ashley’s research is to uncover how the physio-chemical laws that govern all biochemical reactions led to the emergence and expansion of complex life. Using a combination of computational and theoretical approaches Ashley’s research is focused on the functional diversification of biological systems across multiple layers of organization. Thus far her research has centered on the evolution of proteins, duplicated genes, and metabolic pathways. In her future work, she plans to continue to study these molecular systems while also extending her work to examine how changing environments and ecological interactions further shape functional diversification.

Prior to joining SFI, Ashley was a postdoctoral researcher at The University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Integrative Biology. She holds a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from The University of Wyoming, and B.S. degrees in Computer Science and Mathematics from New Mexico State University. Ashley is a lecturer and mentor at the Institute for Computing in Research.

Amanda Ziemann is a research scientist in the Space Data Science and Systems Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Her main areas of research are data science and signal detection, primarily applied to multispectral and hyperspectral remote sensing of the earth. Amanda holds a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, a master’s degree in Applied and Computational Mathematics, and a Ph.D. in Imaging Science, all from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Her most recent research has focused on data fusion using remote sensing imagery along with non-traditional data streams (like social media and weather) for applications ranging anywhere from mosquito-borne disease forecasting to national security. Amanda is a lecturer at the Institute for Computing in Research.

Since the event has been postponed we will have the full information and flyer once we know our screening date.

The somewhat-longer pitch

TL;DR Please look at the one-paragraph pitch if you want to read a single paragraph and then donate to us 🙂

Here I will give some of the things that motivate me to work on the Institute, and then I will ask you to donate to us! You will see lots of links to the donation page, so if you brush past it by mistake you will be able to donate.

The idea for the Institute came from the lack of widely available research internships for high school kids in northern New Mexico – the ones that exist are mostly available to children from connected families. But we have a vast brain trust in the form of Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Santa Fe Institute, and local companies. The idea of the institute is to couple volunteer mentors from this brain trust with highly motivated high school students.

And we do this on a shoestring: the money we raise goes into just three things: (1) student stipends and a laptop for each student, (2) serving lunches on site, (3) hiring our program manager Rhonda Crespo to be present with the students at all times.

Everything else is donated or tiny: our space is donated by the National Center for Genome Resources, our mentors and guest lecturers volunteer their time, our IT support comes from Schaefer IT Consulting; all other expense are quite small.

So we are good stewards of your donations: they go to change the lives of motivated students and that’s it.

There are other properties of the Institute which are not baked in to the design but are present in how we have implemented the design. We are inclusive while selecting by merit: we have put years of work in to developing a pipeline of students which is quite inclusive and diverse. We do this by giving guest lectures in schools in all parts of town, and by working carefully with students and families to make sure that they can take our introductory programming workshops.

The pipeline gave us remarkably competent students in 2019 and their final presentations showed a significant jump in skill. Most importantly each intern had the experience of getting lost in an open-ended problem and having to find their way back.

The one-paragraph pitch

I’m preparing different length “pitch” statements that anyone can use when promoting the Institute and request donations. This post has a “one paragraph” version; another has a slightly longer one with some information about the 2019 pilot.

The Institute for Computing in Research pays students in Santa Fe and northern New Mexico to do research for a chunk of the summer with world-class mentors drawn from the impressive academic and technological communities around us (Los Alamos, Santa Fe Institute, local industry…) Research projects can range from physics to biology to computer science to social science and art and music. This provides a crucial link between classroom learning and real world research. After a very successful pilot in the summer of 2019 we are expanding to 10 students (grades 10, 11, 12) for 4 weeks in the summer of 2020. More information about the Institute, our paid internships, our mentors and lecturers, and how to donate is at We are crowd-funding, so please consider! Those $40 that are burning a hole in your pocket, or as much as is comfortable.