Building Helix for a virtual semester

How Helix is adapting to provide the best experience possible for fall 2020

Alex Chen
Yale Helix
4 min readAug 27, 2020


Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

We’re excited to announce our plans for the next batch of Helices this fall! We’re taking what we learned last year, as well as our personal experiences adapting to virtual life, and implementing some new changes to make Helix even better.

Helix has always had the following thesis: by matching talented students who are interested in healthcare with experienced healthcare professionals with ideas, we can build multi-disciplinary teams capable of tackling problems in the healthcare and health tech space.

In the past, groups of students were paired with healthcare professionals at the beginning of the semester through a pitch event. These were large-scale, long-term projects with many moving parts.

On the plus side, students gained exposure to the healthcare field and immediately could begin working on something new with an experienced healthcare professional.

However, it’s hard to form teams and work effectively with people you only just met, and for the projects that don’t pan out as planned, students have very little to show for it.

We aim to address some of these issues with the changes below.

Self-contained projects, built in public

Photo by Headway on Unsplash


For the first time this year, rather than starting off with physicians, researchers, and other healthcare professionals pitching their ideas to Helix fellows, we will begin with self-contained personal and group projects.

In the span of a few weeks, we want Helices to design, build, and ship something into the world that tackles a small problem relevant to their immediate communities. We’ll provide support through office hours, email, and other channels. At the end of each project, the deliverable will include something that can be published and shared online, whether that be a Medium article, a YouTube video, or something else. In a virtual world, it’s incredibly helpful to build up an online presence to connect with new people and opportunities.

Here’s what we hope to achieve:

  1. New Helix fellows get immediate experience and feedback with building something entirely new from scratch
  2. Helix fellows also get to know each other better through collaboration, presentations, and sharing—when teams are formed for larger projects later, they have a better sense of who they want to work with
  3. Students get to quickly share their work and what they’ve learned in public, rather than waiting an entire semester or more

(Tentative) Timeline

  • September 4–6: EC Bazaar
  • September 7: Interest form due
  • September 8: Applications sent out (and accepted on a rolling basis)
  • September 14: Applications due
  • September 22: Last day of interviews
  • September 23: Decisions released
  • September 24: First meeting

A network of upperclassmen mentors

Picture of a previous Helix cohort

Fellows and members

With everything virtual, it’s more important than ever to be intentional about fostering community and mentorship, especially for first-years who don’t already have established networks on campus.

With that in mind, we will be offering previous Helix fellows the opportunity to return as members and stay connected with the broader community. While fellows are committed to attending speaker events, building two projects, and forming new teams with healthcare professionals, members have much greater flexibility in their involvement and attendance. We hope this will encourage upperclassmen to stay in touch with the organization, and also serve as a resource for new Helix fellows.

Mentor matching and families

Similar to other clubs on campus, we plan on matching new Helices with experienced Helices and forming families that will hopefully create smaller communities within the overall organization, while providing first-years with immediate connections.

We’re all still adapting to these virtual experiences, so things will likely change as we continue to learn what works and what doesn’t. But by starting off with smaller projects, building in public, and fostering a community of Helices new and old, we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to deliver a great experience that makes the most of the virtual format.