General Evaluation of the Computational Biophysics Workshop at Munich

March 25-28, 2014

Questionnaire: Gila Budescu, TCB Group, UIUC, and modified by David Brandon, TCB Group, UIUC
Analysis and report: David Brandon, TCB Group, UIUC

The UIUC's Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group (TCBG), the NIH Center for Macromolecular Modeling and Bioinformatics is headed by Klaus Schulten, and Co-PIs Z. Luthey-Schulten,  L. Kale, E. Tajkhorshid, and A. Aksimentiev. As part of its outreach, the Center offers workshops to introduce and transfer its programs and technological solutions to the biomedical community. Center facutly lectured for a four-day (March 25-28, 2014) workshop organized by Prof. Dr. Erwin Frey of Ludwig Maximilian University. The Center provided lectures, tutorials, and teaching assistants, while the Frey group provided the lecture room, printing, catering, and website about the workshop.

The program of the workshop consisted of lectures and hands-on sessions. Workshop lectures were given by K. Schulten (UIUC) and Z. Schulten (UIUC). Teaching assistants from the research group of each faculty member helped participants during the hands-on tutorial sessions. Tutorials and software used in the workshop were developed by Center members.  The program of the workshop consisted of lectures and hands-on sessions, with an emphasis on the latter. On the last day of the workshop, participants were asked to complete a general evaluation form consisting of questions about outcomes, lectures, hands-on tutorial sessions, environment and technical resources, communication and dissemination, overall satisfaction, and questions soliciting open comments. A copy of the form is available here; summary tables of results are below. About 12 of the 42 participants answered the general evaluation form, for a response rate of ~28%.

Highlights of the results include 92% of participants indicating an increased understanding of computational and theoretical biophysics, and 83% of participants indicating they would recommend the workshop to others.

I. Outcomes

  N Strongly disagree Disagree Unsure Agree Strongly agree
1. The Workshop broadened my understanding of concepts and principles in the field of Computational and Theoretical Biophysics. 12 8%     58% 33%
2. The Workshop improved my ability to carry out original research in the field of Theoretical and Computational Biophysics. 12   33% 42% 17% 8%
3. The Workshop improved significantly my computational skills. 12 8% 25% 33% 25% 8%
4. The Workshop taught me techniques directly applicable to my career. 11   27% 18% 27% 27%
5. The material presented in the Workshop was relevant to my research. 10   10% 40% 40% 10%


II. Lectures

  N Strongly disagree Disagree Unsure Agree Strongly agree
1. The instructors' knowledge of the subjects was good. 12 8%       92%
2. The instructors explained the material well. 12   8% 8% 33% 50%
3. The instructors provided real-world examples. 12 8%     33% 58%
4. The lectures were coordinated between instructors. 12   8%   8% 83%
5. Lectures incorporated recent developments in the field. 12   8%   17% 75%
6. The range of lectures captured the overall essentials of the field. 12   8% 8% 42% 42%
7. The level of the lectures was appropriate. 12     33% 58% 8%
8. The underlying rationale of the techniques presented was clear. 12   17%   58% 25%
9. The instructors stimulated my intellectual curiosity. 12   17% 8% 25% 50%
10. The daily Q&A period was beneficial. 12   8% 33% 42% 17%


III. Hands-On Sessions

  N Strongly disagree Disagree Unsure Agree Strongly agree
1. The hands-on sessions were important for the learning process in the Workshop. 12   17% 8% 42% 33%
2. The concrete examples in the hands-on tutorials increased my understanding of the lectures. 12   8% 17% 25% 50%
3. The hands-on sessions were long enough. 12     17% 25% 58%
4. The hands-on sessions were coordinated with the lectures. 12       50% 42%
5. TAs were well-prepared to answer questions. 12   8%   17% 75%
6. There were sufficient instructions to proceed with the hands-on assignments. 12   8%   33% 58%
7. There were enough TAs / instructional staff to help the participants. 12       17% 75%
8. The tutorial options accommodated the differing interests of participants. 12   8% 8% 17% 67%
9. The tutorial options accommodated the differing expertise levels of participants. 12   8% 17% 33% 42%


IV. Environment and Technical Resources

  N Strongly disagree Disagree Unsure Agree Strongly agree
1. The software used in the Workshop ran well on my (circle one: Windows/Mac/Linux) laptop. 12 8% 8% 42% 33% 8%
2. The lecture room was conducive to learning. 12   17% 8% 50% 25%
3. The projection system was sufficient for the lectures. 12 8%     42% 50%


V. Communication and Dissemination

  N Strongly disagree Disagree Unsure Agree Strongly agree
1. Instructors were readily available for Q&A outside the lecture periods. 10       30% 70%
2. The Workshop web site was informative about the event. 11       55% 45%
3. The emails about setting up laptops for the Workshop were helpful. 12   8% 8% 42% 42%
4. The organizational emails before the Workshop were helpful. 12   8%   42% 50%


VI. Overall Satisfaction

  N Strongly disagree Disagree Unsure Agree Strongly agree
1. The Workshop was well organized. 12   8%   17% 75%
2. The balance between lectures and hands-on sessions was optimal. 12     17% 50% 33%
3. The Workshop addressed my research needs. 11   9% 55% 18% 18%
4. Overall, the Workshop met my expectations. 12     25% 50% 25%
5. I would recommend this Workshop to others. 12   8% 8% 25% 58%


VII. Comments

Participants were solicited for comments in four areas, 1) suggestions for improving the workshop, 2) suggestions for similar workshops, 3) most valuable/least valuable/future workshop topics, and 4) other comments. An inexhaustive list of comments in each area is provided below; a compilation of raw statements can be obtained by e-mailing If a comment was made in one area of the open questions, it is generally not repeated again in another area below. Note: respondents had no suggestions for similar workshops, hence there is no compilation below.

  • Suggestions for improving the workshop:
    • "Maybe some of the tutorials could be held more interactively. Like giving some theoretical background, then working on the a tutorial together for 30 minutes, evaluating the results of the tutorial and go on with more theory. (Although this comes with the cost of loosing the freedom of choosing individual tutorials.)"
    • "Spend more time on explaining the underlying algorithms; instead skip some applications/examples and most of the discussion about performance."
    • "Adapt Lattice Microbe to Windows."
  • Most/least valuable topics and suggestions for future workshop topics
    • "Most: Molecular Dynamics, least: Lattice Microbe (unfortunately did not work on my laptop), topic can be left as they are."
    • "The most valuable were the lectures about VMD and NAMD, especially the NAMD."
    • "Information about how far computational Biophysics has gotten, what can be done and what still cannot be done. Problems and difficulties or challenges of the field. Information for which kind of problems a computational approach is favorable. I liked the examples where computational Biophysics could contribute to the understanding of unsolved biological/bio-physical problems. I liked to get a nice overview over the area of computational biophysics. Would have been nice to get a bit more profound understanding of how the algorithms work and what are the great challenges in their implication."
  • Other comments:
    • "WOW! Great workshop; very motivating to learn more about the programs on my own."
    • "It was very interesting. Thank you a lot! All assistants and the Profs where very nice guys and it was nice 4 days."
    • "My general impression about the lecture is very good and I am very satisfied that I could take part."