National Volunteer Month: Honoring HudsonAlpha “Partners of Progress”

April is National Volunteer Month, a time of the year to appreciate those who donate their time and effort to make the world a better place and also encourage others to do the same. Individuals do just that all through the year at HudsonAlpha. HudsonAlpha volunteers are called “Partners of Progress” because in addition to its scientists, they also have a mission to explore, solve and inspire to improve human health and well-being. Volunteers come from all backgrounds and age groups to help make events such as Biotech 101 and 201, Spring Benefit, Double Helix Dash, and Tie the Ribbons a success.

Francis Cline and his wife have been loyal attendees of the popular public education series Biotech 101  since 2008. The two wanted to extend their relationship with the Institute beyond Biotech 101, and after learning of the many volunteer opportunities at HudsonAlpha, decided to get involved. Since then, the couple volunteers any chance they can, including at the Spring Benefit and Double Helix Dash.

“I had many people ─ coaches, scout leaders, and teachers ─  that helped when I was growing up,” said Cline. “Therefore, I feel I should do the same.”

Since October of 2013, Debra Hallmark has been lending a helping hand at HudsonAlpha. In addition to putting together materials for Educational Outreach, Hallmark also volunteers at the annual Tie the Ribbons luncheon because cancer research is one area that is close to her heart. After losing both her mother and daughter to cancer in 2009 and 2010, Hallmark wanted to contribute to the research being conducted at the Institute, and sees volunteering as the best way to do so.

“I wanted to do something to help my community and the research being done in breast and ovarian cancer by HudsonAlpha,” said Hallmark. “Volunteering is very important to me, especially helping an amazing institution like HudsonAlpha and their goals to educate the community and make advances in research toward finding cures for cancer and other diseases.”

Garrett Wilson, a biological sciences major at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, has been interested in genetics since Educational Outreach lead an experiment with his high school class. In the last two years, Wilson’s relationship with the Institute has continued to grow by helping with Biotech 101 and 201, Tie the Ribbons, Spring Benefit, Genome Circle dinner and more.

“When you find a place like HudsonAlpha that aligns so well with your own career goals ─ passion for health and human disease, compassion for people, and desire to train the scientists of the future ─ you can’t help but want to be involved and give back in any way possible,” said Wilson. “I can’t think of any other place that I would rather spend my time, resources, and energy than at HudsonAlpha. It is truly an amazing place.”

Thanks to our “Partners of Progress,” HudsonAlpha is able to successfully raise funds and awareness for the most pressing health issues and educate the public on the latest advances in research, sharing the power of genomics. If you are interested in becoming a HudsonAlpha volunteer, please contact Tiffany McDaniel at