Personal Genomics for Maine High School Students
Fifteen high school students from across Maine learned how to analyze human DNA samples during the new, one-week “Summer Academy of Genomics” at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL). In addition to learning advanced research techniques, students had the opportunity to live in an active scientific community. They interacted daily with scientists and students who come to MDIBL from around the world and had unparalleled opportunities to discuss education and careers in science.
Charles Wray, Ph.D., director of scientific resources at MDIBL, designed and led the course. “The course was quite a whirlwind and a huge success,” he says. “I was energized by working with extremely curious and capable high school students, covering everything from bioinformatics and ethics to fluorescent PCR genotyping.”
The course was designed for students who had an interest in science or medicine but little or no laboratory experience. Students tested samples for mutations in a gene that affects how patients respond to common medications such as Plavix and Nexium and utilized bioinformatics, or computational analysis tools, to interpret their results. A bioethicist from the Harvard Medical School led a workshop for the students on the ethical, legal, and social issues involved with personal genetics.
One of the benefits of the course was bringing students with a common interest in science together. Susan Rundell, a student at Scarborough High School, said that, for her, “the personal experience was fantastic, connecting me to other Maine high schoolers with similar interests as well as professionals whom none of us would normally get a chance to learn with, let alone socialize with. I found that in my short time here, everyone began to feel like a family away from home, and that made the experience very enjoyable.”
MDIBL intends to offer the course annually. It is free to all participants and funded by the Maine IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence, a network of Maine research institutions, colleges, and universities led by MDIBL with the common goal of enhancing biomedical research and research training in the state of Maine. The network is funded by the National Center for Research Resources, part of the National Institutes of Health.
MDIBL is an independent, nonprofit marine laboratory located in Bar Harbor, Maine. The lab’s twelve resident research groups and 60 visiting scientists study marine and other simple organisms to learn about the basic biology of life, with a particular focus on development and regeneration and how organisms interact with their environment. MDIBL offers hands-on educational programs at all levels, from high school to medical school and for professionals. At every level, MDIBL students learn in real laboratories where they experience the challenges and rewards of scientific research. For more information, see http://www.mdibl.org. #