Alabama students and teachers celebrate DNA Day

HudsonAlpha team travels around the state to offer encouragement and guidance

As part of DNA Day celebrations, more than 2,500 Alabama students  participated in multiple DNA walks and a GenomeCacheTM exercise this week.

GenomeCacheTM is a free app developed by the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology education team. Along with its accompanying website, this app helps teachers assemble a “Genome Walk,” a physical representation of the human genome that includes information on over 150 genes of interest. The GenomeCacheTM app uses the Genome Walk as the setting for a genomic scavenger hunt, similar to the way geocacheing uses GPS coordinates in the search for treasures.

Under the guidance of Neil Lamb, HudsonAlpha’s director of educational outreach, members of the education team supported DNA walks and GenomeCacheing at 10 sites across the state including Liberty and Discovery middle schools in Madison; Madison County High School; Lee High School in Montgomery; Daphne High School in Daphne; Fairview High School in Cullman, Central High School in Rockford; Georgiana School in Georgiana; and Gulf Shores High School in Gulf Shores. A citywide event was celebrated in Tuscaloosa and sponsored by the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative hub site located at the University of Alabama.

Jennifer Carden, a K‐12 coordinator at HudsonAlpha said, “DNA Day events give students, teachers and the public opportunities to learn about the latest advances in genomic research and explore the potential implications of this information on their lives.”

Madelene Loftin, a HudsonAlpha biotechnology education specialist, assisted facilitators as they helped students complete the GenomeCache. Several of the teachers who coordinated these events have attended HudsonAlpha’s two‐week summer academy for state high school life sciences educators– Genetic Technologies for Alabama Classrooms.

Carden added that some teachers involved students in not only the  Genome Walk, but also in a Genetic Traits Tree and a Timeline Walk to explore historical events associated with genetics and biotechnology.

DNA Day highlights the successful completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the discovery of DNA’s double helix by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953.
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Holly Ralston

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Organization Background:

The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama, is the cornerstone of the Cummings Research Park Biotechnology Campus. The campus hosts a synergistic cluster of life sciences talent ‐ science, education and business professionals ‐ that promises collaborative innovation to turn knowledge and ideas into commercial products and services for improving human health and strengthening Alabama’s progressively diverse economy. The non‐profit institute is housed in a state‐of‐the‐art, 270,000 square‐ft. facility strategically located in the nation’s second largest research park. HudsonAlpha has a three‐fold mission of genomic research, economic development and educational outreach.

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