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(Virtual) college tours: everyone’s doing them, including our software engineers — as instructors at local institutions. Wanting to share their technical experience and specific expertise, Clarity engineers Bill, Terri, and Chris have been teaching college courses. In a three-part series, we talk about what they are bringing to their students in classrooms and online.

PART 3 — Surveying & using biological databases & tools

Terri Hobbs is a Senior Software Engineer with more than 30 years of experience in software development and related fields. She has designed and implemented a variety of applications, including those for clustering and categorization and dictionary and thesauri generation — combining and sharing data from heterogeneous databases, as well as graph manipulation, social network analysis, and location search using geohash codes. Terri has developed data models for diverse document collections to support information retrieval and presentation. 

Pursuing Bioinformatics

In addition to her primary technical work, since 2006, Terri has been teaching the graduate-level online course, “Biological Databases and Database Tools.” Offered at Johns Hopkins University’s Engineering Program for Professionals, the course draws students with a background in Life Sciences who may want to pursue Bioinformatics. The students have varying levels of programming ability; sometimes Computer Science majors take the course. Some of Terri’s students already have Ph.D.’s, and she has even had a medical doctor take her class.

Terri’s course teaches students about the wide variety of biological database resources available, how to programmatically obtain information from them, and how to design and develop databases. Biological Databases and Database Tools covers a sampling of biological databases accessible on the internet. “There are many, many of these with different kinds of information,” Terri explains. “Sequence data, protein data, genome data, variation data, disease data, etc.” The course also covers data formats (JSON, XML), types of databases (relational, non-relational), and how to use web services. 

Each week during the semester-long course, an online module is released. Using Blackboard software, students post and participate in discussions. “The students do some programming and design homework assignments and have a course project where they design their own database and write all the necessary code to populate it,” Terri says.

Teaching & advising is rewarding work

It has been rewarding to guide students so they can figure out how to solve problems that are of interest to them. When my experience allows me to suggest an approach that helps the student get past a roadblock, it is very gratifying.”

Terri enjoys teaching the course. “The range of free information in the field of biology and related subjects is amazing and giving students the knowledge of how to work with this information so they can use it in their projects, studies, or jobs is important to me,” she says. “I especially like when students learn something they can use right away at work; learn something that helps them get a new job; discover something that they want to learn more about, and they either take a more in-depth class or (in one case) decide to get a Ph.D. to study that area.”

“It has been rewarding to guide students so they can figure out how to solve problems that are of interest to them. When my experience allows me to suggest an approach that helps the student get past a roadblock, it is very gratifying.” Terri has also served as a faculty advisor for student relational database projects.

Terri’s bio

Terri has designed and implemented a variety of applications and programmed in a range of in-demand languages. In addition, she has developed data models for diverse document collections to support information retrieval and presentation. Her management experience includes leading technical staff and delivering products. In recent years, Terri pursued and earned an M.S. in Applied Molecular Biology. She also holds an M.S. and a P.M.C. in Computer Science.

About the JHU Engineering Program for Professionals

The Engineering Program for Professionals provides online and part-time graduate degrees and certificates in more than 20 areas of focus. It is offered by the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. U.S. News & World Report ranks JHU’s online engineering programs among the best in the nation. For more information, visit https://ep.jhu.edu/.

PART 1: How to wrangle data. Vice President of Engineering, Bill Farmer, discusses teaching Data Sources and Manipulation at the UMD iSchool.

PART 2: Lessons in agility & impact. Senior Software Engineer, Chris Howard, talks about his experience teaching at UMGC and Prince George’s Community College.

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a color photo of Chris Howard