The Childhood Cancer Data Lab (CCDL) is on a mission to accelerate the pace of finding cures for childhood cancer by empowering scientists and doctors to harness the power of Big Data. Large-scale collections of harmonized data provide a unique perspective on complex diseases; however, putting such data to use remains challenging. In order to meet such an intricate challenge, the CCDL has partnered with one of the region’s top drivers for innovation in information science: Drexel’s College of Computing & Informatics (CCI). The CCDL, which is an initiative of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation*, has worked with Drexel graduates in the past. The Lab views this partnership as an opportunity to deepen its engagement with the Drexel community and expand its access to the next generation of data scientists.
The biological sciences, of which childhood cancer research makes up one small part, are awash in a sea of data. However, most pediatric cancer researchers have not been trained to deal with data at this scale. The CCDL is lowering the barrier to impactful analyses by building software that enables researchers to sidestep challenges, by performing exemplary data science workflows that community members can reuse in their own research with minor modifications, and by building foundational skills through workshops for these researchers.
Though the specific technologies change over time, the ability to break down a problem into a series of tractable steps is a critical talent need for the CCDL. From data science to software development to user experience work, CCI’s graduates are prepared to meet this talent need head on. The CCDL aims to produce modular, open source, usable software. Members of the CCDL simultaneously contribute childhood cancer research and to the open source software community. CCI graduates can bring their own experience, their enthusiasm to build the skills of others, and a desire to continue learning through practice to the fight against childhood cancers.
The CCDL may be a data lab, but its biggest asset are the people behind the data. Their diverse team is made up of scientists, engineers, and designers who all share one thing: they’re very proud of the work they do to help fight childhood cancer. Every year the CCDL makes sure that each of its team members attends at least one conference for the sole purpose of continuing to build their expertise. The culture at the CCDL is collaborative and the work they do is user-centered and open-source, allowing the occasional outside researchers or developers to show up on a GitHub issue. There are multiple opportunities and challenges for scientists and engineers at the CCDL to apply and grow their skills.
To learn more about the CCDL, follow them on Twitter and visit their website: ccdatalab.org.
*Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) emerged from the front yard lemonade stand of 4-year-old Alexandra “Alex” Scott, who was fighting cancer and wanted to raise money to find cures for all children with cancer. Her spirit and determination inspired others to support her cause, and when she passed away at the age of 8, she had raised $1 million. Since then, the Foundation bearing her name has evolved into a national fundraising movement and is one of the leading funders of pediatric cancer research in the U.S. and Canada. For more information, visit AlexsLemonade.org or follow them on Twitter.