Bioinformatics in an Introductory Computer Programming Course

Overview & Concepts

This lesson is designed to give a student in an introductory computer programming course an interesting, real-life application problem involving string manipulation and DNA sequencing. The programming assignment should be given after students had already been introduced to and required to use a variety of string functions. Students will be given an introduction to DNA sequencing and protein creation.

Grade Level: 

Concepts Covered: 

strings, structured programming, DNA sequencing, protein synthesis

Prior Knowledge Required: 

String functions, DNA, protein creation

Activity Notes

Days to Teach: 

2-3 Days


  • DNA sequencing information
  • Protein creation information
  • Computers
  • Student Program Worksheet

Teaching Tips / Activity Overview: 

  1. Begin with an introduction to DNA basics.  There is a powerpoint presentation created by Dr. Ellie Rice of Franklin and Marshall College attached to this lesson description that could be used.  This may be review for some students, depending on their experience in science classes, but I want to make sure that all students have this basic information.
  2. Have students practice converting some DNA sequences to protein sequences by hand.  This will force them to think about how to do this without going right to the computer.  Depending on the length of the class period, this could be assigned as homework.
  3. Give students the programming assignment.


  • Formative:  Questioning of students while presenting DNA information and while creating programs
  • Summative:  Programs


In the second of my computer programming courses, students work with file access, so I will be able to have them pull out their previous DNA programs and modify them to read in the information from files.  I do not yet have assignments created for this, but I plan to implement this in the future.


These teacher notes and resources were produced by Mark Elicker using information presented by Dr. Ellie Rice and Dr. Jing Hu of Franklin and Marshall College.

Academic Standards
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