Computing a Cure

Ashir Borah '19, at an exhibition exploring computers and art.

Ashir Borah ’19 

Ashir Borah ’19 (mathematics, computer science) came to Dickinson with a passion for math, and on his advisor’s suggestion, he added a computer-science major. During his four years on campus, he’s conducted three high-level student-faculty research projects, and he’s learned to appreciate the value of a good question. After graduation, he’ll join the MIT/Harvard Broad Institute, working as a computational biologist in the institute's cancer data science program.


Assam, India.


Mathematics and computer science.

Honors/scholarships/awards: John Dickinson Scholar, The Jane Hill Prize in Computer Science, The Richard Howland Memorial Scholarship, Dana Research Assistantship and two summer student faculty research grants.

Favorite books:

The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer and The Gene: An Intimate History, both by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

Favorite movie:

Kung Fu Panda.

On choosing a major:  

Coming into Dickinson, I knew I wanted to study mathematics. My academic advisor, Professor [of Mathematics] Lorelei Koss, suggested that I take computer science and I loved it too. It was one of the best pieces of advice someone has ever given me.

Favorite place on campus:

Tome Scientific Building.

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Wing toss.

About my research projects:

My first research project at Dickinson was on the Internet of Things (IoT) with [Assistant] Professor [of Computer Science] Farhan Siddiqui. We worked on improving the security protocols.

My second research project was with Professor [of Computer Science] Grant Braught on chaotic generators and their effect on mutation operators and population generation for genetic algorithms.

I also was part of [Associate] Professor [of Biology] Mike Roberts’ cancer lab at Dickinson College as a bioinformatician/computational biologist. We are working on acute myeloid leukemia (blood cancer), trying to find new therapeutic targets of drugs.

As I kid, I wanted to be …

… an astronaut.

Post-Dickinson plans:

I will be joining the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard as a computational biologist in their Cancer Data Science Program.

Favorite class/learning experience:  

My research experience with Professor Roberts’ lab. During spring of my junior year, I started to provide computational biology/bioinformatics support to Professor Roberts’ lab at Dickinson. The lab works on acute myeloid leukemia (a type of blood cancer). I love this work because it allows me to use my skills to help other people and hopefully help save at least one life in my lifetime.

Biggest influence in my life, and what I learned from them: 

My mother. She has taught me the value of perseverance and helping people.

Little-known hobby/talent:

I played the tabla (Indian percussion instrument) for nine years.

If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, it would be …   

… Alan Turing. He revolutionized computer science and made arguments about artificial intelligence (AI) that are still discussed in every AI class. He was a thinker who was decades ahead of his contemporaries.

About my Dickinson education:

Dickinson is the place that helped me find my true passion for science and helping people. My undergraduate education at Dickinson has helped me look at a problem from different viewpoints. Being in close proximity with so many talented students means that there are ideas everywhere.

Most important thing I’ve learned so far:  

Be curious and passionate about what you do, and ask questions. Asking questions can seem difficult in the beginning but it’s very important. I believe that a good question is of much higher value than a correct answer.

Read more Student Snapshots.


Published May 16, 2019