Published October 6, 2014
Stephen Koury, PhD, research assistant professor in biotechnical and clinical laboratory sciences, has secured a $1.2 million NIH grant to help area high school students become proficient in genomics and genetics.
The Science Education Partnership Award establishes a partnership with schools throughout Western New York to teach and mentor students from groups underrepresented in STEM fields.
Through the collaboration, known as the Western New York Genetics in Research and Health Care Partnership, some 500 students at schools in 14 counties will learn how to use computer-based tools for genomic analysis.
“An exciting aspect of this program is that it focuses on the clinical and translational applications of genomics,” Koury said. “Students will learn to analyze genes that have clinical significance in human microbial pathogens, such as those that are antibiotic resistant or especially virulent infectious diseases.”
The five-year grant provides training workshops for about 20 teachers per year and provides students with preparatory skills targeted to careers in the life sciences.
In its first year, the program focuses on rural Western New York high schools. In its second, it moves into Rochester public schools—and, from there, into suburban and other urban school districts.
Participating high schools will receive technical support for advanced hands-on projects and intensive teacher training.
A subset of teachers will become master annotators, a distinction allowing them to share their expertise teaching genomics and basic bioinformatics.
“The teachers will be learning about gene annotation, lesson plan development, how to work with the National Center for Biotechnology Information and how to use a range of new algorithmic programs to analyze gene and protein sequences,” Koury said.
The new program leverages aspects of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s $50 million genomic medicine investment at UB, part of a designated $1 billion in state aid for the Buffalo area.
In announcing it, Rep. Brian Higgins applauded the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences for winning such a competitive award and “leading on forward-thinking community partnerships” that encourage scientific discovery and the next generation of researchers.
“Under the leadership of Dr. Koury, this program will provide hundreds of high school students with the skills they need to pursue a career in life sciences on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, where the UB medical school will be located in just a few years,” noted Michael E. Cain, MD, medical school dean and vice president for health sciences at UB.
Shannon Carlin-Menter, PhD, is co-principal investigator on the project. She is director of evaluation for the New York State Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) System, based in the UB Department of Family Medicine.
Leaders from the Erie Niagara and Rural AHEC system — which aims to increase diversity in the health professions — will play an integral role in the program.
Among other responsibilities, they will:
Co-investigators on the award are: