In December of 2019, an unknown pathogen caused a cluster of pneumonia-like cases in Wuhan, China. The pathogen was later identified as the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes the illness now known as COVID-19. The virus quickly spread around the world, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic on March 11, 2020. The analysis of COVID-19 sequence data is critical to learning about the virus and developing effective treatments and vaccines. This analysis is being done by researchers around the world using online bioinformatics tools. Bioinformatics lessons can be especially challenging for the introductory-level student due to the "unseen" processes that happen when utilizing computational tools online.This series of four lessons introduces computational tools.
Bioinformatics is increasingly becoming a critical and in-demand career field to analyze genetic information. Providing students with an introduction to the concepts and tools of computational biology in a format that is relevant and understandable is important for capturing their interest and sense of achievement. This set of exercises is designed to allow students to tackle a current issue, the COVID-19 pandemic, by learning the skills needed to analyze virus sequence data. Reducing the frustration and confusion that often accompanies bioinformatic activities will encourage interested students to pursue more advanced activities.