Carnegie Mellon University
April 06, 2023

Master's Students Get Outside of Classrooms and Onto Fields

By Heidi Opdyke

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Marketing and Communication, MCS
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In science, blood pressure, body temperature and proteins within bone are biomarkers. At Carnegie Mellon University, Biomarkers is the name of two intramural teams comprised of students in the Master's of Science Computational Biology (MSCB) program.

The MSCB is a joint program between Carnegie Mellon's Department of Biology in the Mellon College of Science and the Computational Biology program in the School of Computer Science.

Sofia Lima, now a second-year graduate student, pitched the name for an Ultimate Frisbee team in 2021. Parker Simpson, who organized the team, thought it was a great idea.

"It happened to just be a really convenient name for the Computational Biology master's program," said Simpson. "In ultimate, when you're playing defense against another player, it's called marking. In biology a biomarker Is an indicator of another biological phenomenon. So that could be like if they find that a certain mutation in a gene is associated with disease then that mutation might be considered a biomarker for that disease."

Simpson played intramural soccer both years he's been in the program. And he said that playing soccer and pursuing other extracurricular activities has allowed him to meet a lot of people he might not have ever run into.

"Our first game for ultimate in 2021 was against the Math Department. So it's cool to see those rivalries and sometimes even faculty play," said Simpson, who also is in the SALSA club. "Last spring I played intramural basketball with friends in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and that was really fun."

Evan Corden, a second-year graduate student picked up the Biomarkers moniker for a new co-ed soccer team this year. He played soccer in high school as well as intramural and pickup games as an undergraduate at Princeton.

"I was working on a group project with other students in my master's program when soccer came up. They were interested in playing soccer, so I organized a team," Corden said. "It was fun."

Members of the Master's of Science Computational Biology program played intramural soccer during the fall of 2022.

Corden and others said that having a physical outlet helps.

"If you spend all of your time working, there are diminishing returns to that," Corden said. "It's very important for coming up with new research ideas to have some physical activity."

Jackie Vo, an MSCB first-year graduate student agrees.

"I really love sports. There are a lot of benefits for playing intramural during school. The first being stress relief and relax from study and research," Vo said. "The second part is to get to know more people from my program who I hadn't met before."

Simpson agreed. A lifelong athlete, he said it was exciting to see another side to his classmates.

"It's fun to hang out with the people from your cohort outside of an academic environment. A lot of the time we spend together is in classes and studying, so it's nice to be able to see people  playing a game. You might see someone more playful than they would be somewhere else, or you might see a competitive side of someone that you never see sitting with them in a classroom."

Jarrod Novotny serves as the coordinator of intramural and club sports at Carnegie Mellon. He said that nearly a third of all intramural participants are graduate students each year. Intramural sports begin Aug. 1 and wrap up in May. This year there were more than a dozen sports players could compete in that included everything from flag football and billiards to tennis and kickball.

"At Carnegie Mellon all CMU community members — including undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, staff and partners of those individuals can participate in intramural sprots," Novotny said.