Blog 2 min

Pierian Hackathon: 2021

June 9th, 2021

“It’s funny what a good hackathon can do,” remarked Ankita Parikh, Senior Software Engineer at Pierian. “I woke up feeling sad because there were no more issues to resolve!” Ankita’s sentiment was matched by about 50 of her coworkers as they participated in the second annual Pierian Hackathon. From April 22-25, over 50 Pierian team members in Pune, India and St. Louis, Missouri set out to discover, conceptualize, and prototype solutions for our customers. Over the course of three days -- and several sleepless nights--developers, and other staff members self-organized in cross functional teams across different departments from both our offices, prioritized challenges, and promptly got to work.  

The overarching goal of the hackathon was to enhance the user experience of our software platform, Clinical Genomics Workspace, or to make internal enhancements that would improve upon our ability to deliver the solution to our customers. 

One key theme pursued by hackathon teams was that of scalability and parallel processing. While our existing customer base generates thousands of reports every year, we actively envision a future in which thousands of reports can be run simultaneously. To this end, hackathon team members explored new approaches for enhancing the efficiency and scalability of our solution. In addition to these performance enhancements, one byproduct of this work was a tool--a progress indicator--that can track a sample throughout the entire informatics workflow.

Another key theme was the streamlining of clinical genomics workflows. At Pierian, we think a lot about our customers’ workflows, and how we can make them as simplistic and efficient as possible. Nowhere are workflow challenges more prevalent than in the moving or transferring of data, and in any organization there are a number of ways that users want to upload large-scale data for analysis. For this reason, hackathon members conceived of and developed another method for uploading Gigabyte-scale data in various formats (BCL, FASTQ, and VCF) into Clinical Genomics Workspace. The platform-independent data upload solution supports required file formats and can be accessed via both the graphical user interface or command line. 


In this 5-minute video, Ankita Parikh, Senior Software Engineer, describes the recent Pierian hackathon

The third and final theme for the hackathon included examining the powerhouse behind our SaaS solution, the Pierian Knowledgebase. In addition to including de-identified interpretations from our network of customers, the knowledgebase is updated frequently with curated information by a number of specialized teams. To support frequent updates, hackathon teams developed several different utilities, at least one of which also enhanced the performance of the knowledgebase, enabling even quicker report generation. 

At the end of the hackathon, entries were presented, and a panel of judges selected a first- and second-place winner based on the entry’s impact to user experience, performance, ease of setup, product maturity, etc. In a nod to our core expertise, both of the winning teams won for their work to enhance the performance of the Pierian Knowledgebase. Winning teams took home prizes, but at Pierian, we all agree: the real reward will come when we can materialize these changes to better serve our customers. 

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