Phyloinformatics Summer of Code 2010

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We will be applying again as a mentoring organization for the 2010 Google Summer of Code (GSoC) program. This is our fourth time in the program. Please see below for our project ideas and information on how to apply.

Please see our pages of project ideas and accepted projects for our 2007, 2008, and 2009 program participatations. We also wrote up summaries of the project results for our 2007 and 2008 NESCent newsletters, and in 2009 as a supplement to the newsletter.

On this page we were first collecting ideas, possible projects, prerequisites, possible solution approaches, mentors, other people or channels to contact for more information or to bounce ideas off of, etc. You can now also find the accepted projects with brief summaries of the goals, who the student and mentor is for each project, and where project page, source code repository, and, if the student keeps one, a development blog are located.


  • Mar 9, 2010: The project ideas page for 2010 (the page you are looking at) is ready for adding project ideas.'
  • Feb 22, 2010: Call for Mentors went out to various projects and communities we have interacted with in the past.


Our organization administrators are Hilmar Lapp ( and Todd J. Vision (

If you are a student interested in applying for a Google Summer of Code project in our organization, please send any questions you have, projects you would like to propose, etc to This will reach all mentors and our Summer of Code organization adminstrators. You can also reach the (larger) community of previous mentors, students, hackathon participants, and other phyloinformatics software developers at

During the student application period we will hang out regularly on IRC at least on weekdays during working hours (EDT) in #phylosoc on Freenode. You're welcome to join us at any time, though we may not be on-line outside of those times. Alternatively, there's always email. (If you do not have an IRC client installed, you might find the comparison on Wikipedia, the Google directory, or the IRC Reviews helpful. For Macs, X-Chat Aqua works pretty well. If you have never used IRC, try the IRC Primer at IRC Help, which also has links to lots of other material.)

Before you apply, please read our guidelines and expectations . We don't have an application format that you need to adhere to, but we do ask that you include specific kinds of information (see "When you apply").


Our aim is to cultivate the next generation of open-source software developers in evolutionary biology and promote the open, collaborative development of reusable, interoperable, standards-supporting informatics tools. We aim to increase the awareness and understanding of the value of open-source and collaborative development, and also impart the programming and remote collaboration skills needed to successfully contribute to such projects.

The disciplinary focus for our participation is phyloinformatics and evolutionary biology, and our community of mentors are leaders in this field. The code that students write will facilitate new, and increasingly complex, scientific questions to be answered about the patterns and processes underlying the history of life. Work on projects along the lines of our suggested project ideas is bound to make an impact. The range of problems for which students can make meaningful contributions to is diverse, enabling us to accommodate students with varying interests. Similarly, the project ideas cover a variety of programming languages and skill levels.


Note: if there is more than one mentor for a project, the primary mentor is in bold font. Additional information about the mentors is linked to in the Mentors section.

Students: we have listed only our own project ideas, albeit well thought-out ones. You are welcome to propose your own project provided it still falls within the scope of the aims described above. If we like your proposal, we will try to find an appropriate mentor. Better yet, propose a mentor yourself! Regardless of what you decide to do, make sure you read and follow the guidelines for students below.

Write a NEXUS parser in C&

This is a template for how the student project ideas could be presented. Feel free to copy & paste & edit, and feel free to adjust the format.

C& is an amp'ed-up programming language that has not been invented yet but in a few years will dominate the programming world. The best way to prevent broken non-compliant NEXUS parsers written in C& from appearing is to write a good one now.
Re-implementations of NEXUS parsers inevitably tend to be broken or non-compliant. Hence, the best approach is to write a translator that translates a reference implementation to C&.
C& has not been invented yet, so a lot of assumptions will have to be made.
Involved toolkits or projects 
The BioC& toolkit has much of the needed framework.
Degree of difficulty and needed skills 
Hard. The hardest part is probably inventing C&. Writing the parser itself should be medium, unless C& was ill-designed for writing parsers. Knowledge of the BioC& toolkit will obviously help, as well as knowing the NEXUS format.
Mike&, founder of BioC&


What should prospective students know?

Before you apply

  • Look at our project ideas to get an overall sense for the kinds of projects we support.
  • Pick the idea that appeals most to you in terms of goals, context, and required skills, or you can apply with your own project idea.
  • If you want to apply with your own idea, contact us early on so we can try to find a mentor. Alternatively, you can suggest a candidate mentor to us if you know one.
  • Ask us questions about the project idea you have in mind.
  • Write a project proposal draft, include a project plan (see below), and bounce those off of us.

Have I mentioned yet that you should be in touch with us before you apply?

When you apply

When applying, (aside from the information requested by Google) please provide the following in your application material.

  1. Your interests, what makes you excited.
  2. Why you are interested in the project, uniquely suited to undertake it, and what do you anticipate to gain from it.
  3. A summary of your programming experience and skills
  4. Programs or projects you have previously authored or contributed to, in particular those available as open-source, including, if applicable, any past Summer of Code involvement.
  5. A project plan for the project you are proposing, even if your proposed project is directly based on one of the ideas above.
    • A project plan in principle divides up the whole project into a series of manageable milestones and timelines that, when all accomplished, logically lead to the end goal(s) of the project. Put in another way, a project plan explains what you expect you will need to be doing, and what you expect you need to have accomplished, at which time, so that at the end you reach the goals of the project.
    • Do not take this part lightly. A compelling plan takes a significant amount of work. Empirically, applications with no or a hastily composed project plan have not been competitive, and a more thorough project plan can easily make an applicant outcompete another with more advanced skills.
    • A good plan will require you to thoroughly think about the project itself and how one might want to go about the work.
    • We don't expect you to have all the experience, background, and knowledge to come up with the final, real work plan on your own at the time you apply. We do expect your plan to demonstrate, however, that you have made the effort and thoroughly dissected the goals into tasks and successive accomplishments that make sense.
    • We strongly recommend that you bounce your proposed project and your project plan draft off our mentors by emailing (see below). Through the project plan exercise you will inevitably discover that you are missing a lot of the pieces - we are there to help you fill those in as best as we can.
  6. Your possibly conflicting obligations or plans for the summer during the coding period.
    • Although there are no hard and fast rules about how much you can do in parallel to your Summer of Code project, we do expect the project to be your primary focus of attention over the summer. Our view is that it should be the same as an internship you take up over the summer, except this one is remote (and almost certainly more fun :-) If you look at your Summer of Code project as a part-time occupation, please don't apply for our organization.
    • That notwithstanding, if you have the time-management skills to manage other work obligations concurrent with your Summer of Code project, feel encouraged to make your case and support it with evidence.
    • Most important of all, be upfront. If it turns out later that you weren't clear about other obligations, at best (i.e., if your accomplishment record at that point is spotless) it destroys our trust. Also, if you are accepted, don't take on additional obligations before discussing those with your mentor.
    • One of the most common reasons for students to struggle or fail is being overstretched. Don't set yourself up for that - at best it would greatly diminish the amount of fun you'll have with your Summer of Code project.

Get in touch with us

Please send any questions you have and ideas and work plans for projects you would like to propose to This will reach all mentors and our organization adminstrators.

  • We strongly recommend you do this even if you want to work directly on one of our project ideas above. It gives you an opportunity to get feedback on what our expectations might be, and you might want to ask for more specifics.
  • Also, you can bounce your project plan off of us. In the past those students who engaged with us before submitting their application invariably had vastly better applications and project plans.
  • Keep in mind that we are most interested in students who give us evidence that they have already or might develop a sustained interest in becoming future contributors to our open source projects. How do you convey that If the first time we see something from you is when we score your application?
  • The value of frequent and early communication in contributing to a distributed and collaboratively developed project can hardly be overemphasized. The same is true for becoming part of a community, even if only temporarily. If you can't find the time to engage in communication with your prospective organization before you have been accepted, how will you argue that you will be a good communicator once accepted?

If you are interested in hearing from our previous Summer of Code mentors or students, you can also send email to It's a larger list, so in that case try to be specific about what kinds of people you'd like to hear back from.

Other information

Reference Facts & Links: Google Summer of Code 2010

  • Mentoring organizations apply between March 8-12, 2010.
  • Students apply online between March 29-April 9, 2010. The eligibility requirements for students are in the GSoC FAQ.'
  • After close of student applications, the mentors of the organizations score the applications, and Google allocates slots to each organization. The top scoring N students for each organization, N being the number of slots allocated, get accepted and announced on April 26, 2010.
  • The coding period is from May 24 to August 16, 2010. Between acceptance and the start of coding, students are expected to acquaint themselves with the project, the code bases involved, and the respective developer community, as well as set up everything needed for developing and committing (code repository access, mailing list subcription, software and dependencies installation, compiling, etc).
  • Development occurs on-line, there is no requirement or expectation to travel, neither for students nor for mentors.