Below is a sample coding challenge (and accompanying solution code) for a unit in the molecular genomics curriculum I developed as a Helen Fellow at the AMNH. The assembly program algorithm was inspired by an assignment I encountered in Stanford University’s CS107 Intro to Systems course (the defrag assignment, now retired).

sequence assembly: so many ways to put the pieces together!

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for! How, exactly, do we go about assembling two nucleotide sequences? You might consider these steps en route to developing your final answer:

  • look for common base pairs between both sequences – at the beginning of one and the end of the other
  • if a single common bp is found, step into both sequences and compare second and second-to-last bps
  • rinse and repeat, tracking the length of the maximal overlap between both sequences


str2 = 'ATGCG'
str1 = 'TGC'

def find_ind(seq1, seq2):
    match_length = 0
    max_match = 0

    for i in range(0, len(seq2)):
        for j in range(0, len(seq1)):
            if seq2[i] == seq1[j]:
                #print('match found' + str(i) + str(j))
                match_length = len(seq1) - j
                if seq1[j:] == seq2[i:i+match_length]:
                    if match_length > max_match:
                        max_match = match_length
                        str1_start = j
                        str2_start = i
    return (max_match, str1_start, str2_start)

def reassembler(seq1, seq2, start2):
    return(seq1 + seq2[start2:])

def assemble(seq1, seq2): 
    str1_start = 0
    str2_start = 0
    ##one seq is completely contained within the other
    if seq1.find(seq2) > 0:
        return seq1
    elif seq2.find(seq1) > 0:
        return seq2
    soln1 = find_ind(seq1, seq2)
    soln2 = find_ind(seq2, seq1)
    print(soln1, soln2)
    if soln1[0] > soln2[0]:
        print(reassembler(seq1, seq2, soln2[2]))
        print(reassembler(seq2, seq1, soln1[2]))

assemble(str1, str2)

What if we wanted to assemble 3 fragments? How could we call on our function for two fragments to accomplish this?