Core Leader: Diana Murray


CaST Outreach Core Structure 
The CaST Outreach Core aims to include a wide range of communities in the center's scientific efforts.

The CaST Outreach core promotes alignment of CaST efforts, collaborations and interactions with other Cancer Systems Biology Consortium (CSBC) centers, dissemination of CaST’s scientific and translational advances, and enrichment of the field of cancer systems biology by mentoring and recruiting students from under-represented groups. Our outreach program is designed to produce measurable, practicable outcomes that foster and invigorate our investigators, our science, and our communities.

The DREAM Challenges

Founded in 2006 by Andrea Califano (the CaST PI) and Gustavo Stolovitzky, the Dialogue for Reverse Engineering Assessment and Methods (DREAM) poses fundamental questions about systems biology and translational medicine, inviting participants to propose solutions to key questions in biomedical research. By focusing the scientific community’s attention on specific problems related to the treatment and modeling of biological datasets, the DREAM Challanges help to spur self-critique and innovation in the systems biology community.

CaST is working together with the DREAM Challenges by providing data for upcoming challenges, potentially focusing on dynamic processes underlying tumor homeostasis. Past Columbia involvement has focused on predicting drug sensitivity and synergy. The DREAM Challenges are evaluated each year at the annual RECOMB/ISCB Conference on Regulatory and Systems Genomics

Cross-training program

CaST is planning to establish an intensive, hands-on cross-training program capitalizing on the wide range of skills our investigators possess. Attendees will learn new and complementary skills related to CaST objectives, which will help them think more holistically and critically about their research. Potential examples include enabling computational systems biologist to perform the RNASeq library preparations that provide the data for his/her analysis, or helping an investigator who develops patient-derived mouse models to learn how to infer tumor checkpoint master regulators computationally.

We also plan to arrange for personnel exchanges with other NCI CSBC centers and offer larger-scale cross-training programs throughout the Columbia University Medical Center. Finally, we are designing a yearly one-day workshop to the Columbia biomedical community in collaboration with the Columbia Precision Medicine Initiative.

Opportunities for undergraduates: The CaST Scholars Program

The past decade has witnessed a widespread proliferation and expansion of research programs in systems biology and precision medicine at top universities. To support the continued growth of these fields, CaST is helping to recruit and train the next generation of researchers and innovators.

Each year, CaST will host several undergraduate interns recruited exclusively from the schools and colleges of the City University of New York (CUNY). CUNY is the largest urban university in the United States and comprises a richly diverse student body. Through the CaST Scholars Program, the Department of Systems Biology hopes to forge a more formal scientific/educational partnership with CUNY.

The CaST Scholars Program will also recruit young women from The Scientista Foundation for Women in STEM. This national organization empowers pre-professional women in science, technology, engineering, and math by providing educational content, building communities, and organizing conferences.

The CaST Scholars Program will expose students interested in pursuing careers at the intersection of computer science, physics, chemistry, genomics, and biomedicine to the exciting field of cancer systems biology. We aim to enrich and individualize each Scholar’s experience by providing:

  • CaST scholar meetings and discussion groups
  • opportunities for summer or semester research internships
  • participation in CaST activities, including the New York Academy of Sciences Systems Biology Discussion Group, CaST cross-training opportunities, CaST seminar programs, and the Department of Systems Biology/CaST Annual Retreat.
  • free access to an overview course, “Systems Biology: Blueprint for a 21st Century Scientific Revolution”
  • ongoing mentoring relationships with our investigators

New York Academy of Sciences Systems Biology Discussion Group

To foster wider discussion about CaST initiatives and research goals, we are developing a CSBC seminar/discussion series through the Systems Biology Discussion Group at the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS). Meetings will take place on a biannual basis and will be open to the public. Each meeting will consist of a series of invited thematic talks and a general discussion, followed by a closed-door focused inquiry to address the knowledge and technology gaps related to the science presented at the general meeting. A senior investigator from another CSBC center will be invited to give the keynote address at each event and to visit as a short-term visiting scientist at CaST.