IUPUI takes second place in Roche Global Code4life University Challenge

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The second-place IUPUI team, from left: Abdulmecit Gungor, Sarkhan Badirli and Sarun Gulyanon.

INDIANAPOLIS -- A team of students from IUPUI finished second in Roche's first-ever global Code4life University Challenge. Roche, a global pioneer in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics focused on advancing science to improve people's lives, tapped into gaming's popularity to recruit millennials using an online coding game.

In November 2016, Roche's Group HR Talent Acquisition department partnered with Roche software engineers to understand their challenges and needs and understand how coding is helping relieve these issues. Armed with that knowledge, Roche software developers and game creators developed Code4life. The University Challenge allows students in Germany, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and the United States to compete in a worldwide coding challenge where they learn how coding is solving problems in health care.

In 2017, IUPUI students Abdulmecit Gungor, Sarkhan Badirli and Sarun Gulyanon competed in the challenge. Not only did their team place first in the U.S. during the national challenge, beating out teams from Stanford, MIT and Berkeley, but it placed an impressive second overall in the global challenge. A team from La Salle-URL in Barcelona, Spain, placed first, and a team representing IE-Instituto de Empresa in Madrid, Spain, came in third.

"Congratulations to the IUPUI team on this incredible accomplishment," said Bridget Boyle, vice president and site head of human resources for Roche Indianapolis. "I'm so proud that a hometown university competed in our global Code4life program and that it did so well. This is just one example that highlights the strong tech talent we have in our area colleges and universities. I'm excited about this competition, especially as IT and digital careers at Roche are becoming increasingly more important."

More than 140 teams registered for the inaugural 2017 Code4life University Challenge, and 444 students from 60 universities competed in the first round.

In the national challenge, students from the same university formed teams of three and tested their coding skills against other student teams in their country. Participants could major in any field of study but had to be able to code in at least one of 25 coding languages such as C++, Java, Go, Ruby, C#, F#, JavaScript, PHP or Rust.

A total of 10 teams, two each from Switzerland, Spain, Poland, Germany and the U.S., advanced to the second round of competition, which took place in Roche offices across the world on Dec. 11, 2017. The teams were connected live via video conference and pitched their solutions to a real-life Roche business case.

"Being a part of the IUPUI computer science master's degree program has let me dive into an exciting journey in data science," said Abdulmecit Gungor, a student in the School of Science at IUPUI. "During this journey, I've had great support from our faculty members, especially my advisor, Murat Dundar. I was privileged to represent IUPUI in the Code4life University Challenge and work on solutions for a real-life problem that Roche is facing."

The grand prize for the global challenge is a visit to Roche headquarters in Basel, Switzerland. Due to the closeness of the scores between the first- and second-place teams, both teams were extended the invitation, and the IUPUI students will visit Basel in May.

Candace Gwaltney is associate director of communications for the School of Science.