Science Coding Immersion Program


The Code Lab (run by Dr. Pleuni Pennings) wants to help many SFSU science students learn coding skills during the summer of 2020. 

Why participate in a coding program this summer? 

Coding is a useful skill for biologists and (bio)chemists, but it is hard to learn alone and to make time for a coding class during the semester. That’s why we want to help you this summer! If you dedicate 9 hours a week to coding (8 hours with your team and 1 hour for a webinar), we believe that you can learn a lot of coding skills – even if you are an absolute beginner. Plus, it’ll be fun because you’ll be working in a team! 

Our hope is that you join us for the opportunity to not only learn a valuable skills but also connect with other wonderful students in Biology and Biochemistry learning this skill as well!

Why an immersion program?

We call our program an immersion program because you’ll be “immersed” in learning to code for 8 hours a week. You will watch videos and work on mini-projects to practice your new skills during these 8 hours while you are on a Zoom call with your team. The awesome benefit of learning to code like this is that whenever you get stuck (and getting stuck is normal!), you can ask your team for help since you’re in the Zoom call together! Another cool benefit is that there’s NO homework outside these hours.

You may think that you’d rather work alone and only join the Zoom meeting when you are actually stuck, but experience tells us that that will not work as well – especially for coding. Therefore if you join this program, you will have to be in all the team Zoom meetings.

Important things to know about the program

  1. You don’t need any prior experience with coding or computer science (but if you have some, you are welcome to join as well). 
  2. This program is FREE. Absolutely free. No hidden fees. Nothing!
  3. It is meant for SFSU students particularly in Biology, Chemistry, and Biochemistry majors, but we’ll consider opening it up for others if there is a lot of interest. 
  4. The program is 9 hours per week for 6 weeks, with meeting time options to fit your summer schedule.
  5. This is NOT an SFSU class. Thus, it is NOT graded and you get no credits towards your degree. 
  6. You will work in a small team (5-6 students) with a team leader. 
  7. If you are interested in being a team leader, please indicate on the sign-up form!

What will you learn? 

You will learn a lot about what coding is and why it is useful for scientists. Even if you only do this one summer of coding, it’ll be useful because it’ll help you understand the role of coding in science and in the world. 

For this summer, we’ll have teams that will learn R, Python, or Image Processing. R is a very useful programming language that many scientists use in research and in their work. Python is a programming language not only used in the science field, but also in biotechnology and other computing fields. Image Processing (Image Analysis or ImageJ) is a program designed for processing scientific, multidimensional images; it was developed by the NIH and uses the Java programming language.

This summer, we are updating our learning materials for R to have more science-related coding content, valuable for your fields! Our program will have a hybrid of materials created by Ryan Fergusson, a member of the SCIP Admin Team, as well as some of the content from the Udacity course we used last year. Our hope with this hybrid of new and old content is to help you better understand R and its many uses in the sciences! Please note that if you are interested in taking the Python course, there will be no additional learning materials at this time. We will be using the Udacity course that we also used last summer for Python content, which is a wonderful and comprehensive introduction to the programming language! Lastly, we are still determining the ideal course for the Image Processing teams. More on this will be added onto this website once we have this information.

How to sign up?

If you are interested in participating, please fill out this google form:

We acknowledge that summer schedules may change based on summer classes and other opportunities! If you are interested at all, please register! If your schedule changes after you have registered, please reach out to us at to update your time preferences.

If you apply before April 15, please expect an email from us within 2-4 days after April 15. If you apply after April 15 and before the May 15 deadline, we will get back to you 2-4 days after May 15!

Do you want to be a team leader? 

If you have some coding experience or experience working with people, you can volunteer to be a team leader. Team leaders learn all the same skills as the other participants. In addition, team leaders facilitate their team meetings. This means that you are the host of the Zoom meetings, you invite your team to the meetings – and if someone doesn’t show up – you text them to check in on them. 

Being a team leader also means that for each day, you plan the meeting. For example, on day 1, you would likely start with introductions, followed by an icebreaker activity using break-out rooms. We can help give you ideas on that. After that you’d maybe look at the first video of the online class together. As a team leader, you make sure that it’s not always the same people who talk and the same who are quiet. Again, we can give you suggestions on getting people to participate. You are also the one who will reach out to the SCIP Admin Team if you and your team run into a coding or program issue.

We will provide you with sample emails and sample agendas for your meetings, and are available every week day if you have questions. 

If you are unsure if you are ready to be a team leader, feel free to contact any member of the SCIP Admin Team (see below for contact info)!

Who is behind the SFSU Science Coding Community? 

SCIP Admin Team

Dr. Pleuni Pennings leads the CoDE Lab and is responsible for the Science Coding Immersion Program. Follow Pleuni on Twitter here: @pleunipennings

Ryan Fergusson is an SFSU alum (M.S. Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology, 2020) and works on the creation and implementation of coding content and learning components for the program. He is an amazing data scientist with expertise in the R programming language. Follow Ryan on Twitter here: @ry_ferg

Rochelle-Jan Reyes is an SFSU alum (B.S. Biology – Concentration in Physiology, 2018) and works on administration and logistics as well as social media for the program. She has been using R and Python for her research in Equity in STEM as well as Forensic Genetics! Follow Rochelle on Twitter here: @rj_reyes1

Olivia Pham is also an SFSU alum (M.S. Cell and Molecular Biology, 2019) and works providing valuable content for and hosting the webinars in the program. She has expertise in utilizing R for her research and work. Follow Olivia on Twitter here: @oliviaphamnow

Dr. Megumi Fuse is a biologist/physiologist and Director of SEO (Student Enrichment Opportunities Office). She will also share her knowledge on leading teams. 

Dr. C Sarah Cohen is a professor at SFSU and in the Estuary & Ocean Science Center. She will share her expertise in Ecology & Evolution and how coding can be used in the field!


Please check out what other students had to say about the Science Coding Immersion Program from Summer and Fall 2020!

Summer 2020

“I loved how much it was focused on self-driven learning at your own pace. There was no immediate pressure to understand something at any particular moment. This took the pressure off of grasping more complicated subjects.”

“I liked that we had our own small teams, it made learning code less intimidating. Having a support team and someone to guide and ask questions to is really important when learning how to program.”

Fall 2020

“I loved that it was a “go at your own pace” environment because some weeks allowed for more time to focus on Udacity than others. It was less stressful than having to worry about weekly assignment deadlines.”

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the general weekly commitment?

9 hours a week (8 hours with your team and 1 in a webinar on Tuesday from 1-2pm).

2. Is there a cost associated with the program?

No, the program is free!

3. What is the SCIP application deadline?

The final deadline to apply is May 15, 2021.

4. Is there an on-going program similar to the Science Coding Immersion Program (SCIP)?

Undergrad Students: PINC is an ongoing program for Biology and Chemistry undergraduates. It consists of taking 5 Computer Science courses, which leads to a minor in Computer Applications. For more information about this program, please visit

Grad Students: GOLD a new program that started in Fall 2020 that will be on-going for Graduate students. For more information, please visit

5. How does this differ from the PINC Summer Program (PSP)?

The major differences between SCIP and PSP is that SCIP focuses solely on the learning of the R or Python programming languages whereas PSP has a learning component for the R programming language and a research component. In addition to this, SCIP is a 6-week program (June 1-July 13, 2021) whereas PSP is a 9-week program (June 1-July 31, 2021). Please check out this infographic below for more info!


6. Will I receive guidance on a project that I am currently working on?

Depending on your project and the circumstances, you may or may not be able to receive guidance on a project that you are currently working on.

7. I may miss a couple of days during the program. Will I be able to take part in the program?

Yes! Missing a couple days will not hinder your ability to join the program. However, it is crucial to ensure that your team leader has a notice of your absence beforehand. You will also be able to work with your team and team leader to determine the best days and times to meet. Absences for multiple days will be addressed on a case-to-case basis.

8. When would I know if I am going to be a part of the program?

You will be notified of your participation in the program by May 2021! As of right now, you will be notified of a team assignment a week prior to when the team will start. 

9. For the role of team leader, will I need to have some coding experience?

No, you do not need to have some coding experience to be a team leader! However, you will need to be comfortable hosting Zoom meetings for a group of 5-6 other team members.

If you have any other questions that were not addressed here, please email us at or

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