Published July 16, 2014
Twenty-four high school student-scientists showcased original bioinformatics research at a culminating event for a University at Buffalo training program designed to prepare them for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The experience is part of the three-year program “Western New York Genetics in Research Partnership: Expanding Exposure, Career Exploration and Interactive Projects in Basic Genome Analysis and Bioinformatics.”
The high school students spent a year learning about genetics and genomics and participating in annotating a gene.
They studied Kytococcus sedentarius, the marine bacterium that causes the skin disorder pitted keratolysis in humans.
They also conducted Web-based research in microbial annotation using the Integrated Microbial Genomes Annotation Collaboration Toolkit (IMG-ACT) from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute.
During the celebratory capstone symposium, students presented posters showcasing their research and gene annotation projects.
The departments of biotechnical and clinical laboratory sciences and family medicine hosted the June event at UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.
The students were able to delve into bioinformatics research thanks to specialized training their teachers received from UB scientists.
In 2013, the high school teachers completed a one-week summer workshop in microbial genome annotation at UB as well as three refresher sessions. They passed on their new skills to students in their classrooms with support from UB faculty and staff.
The teachers worked with IMG-ACT — an innovative experience incorporating hands-on cyber-learning — to increase their knowledge of bioinformatics and gain experience with bioinformatics software for classroom use.
UB scientists recently trained 31 additional high school teachers through the program.
The partnership provides a pipeline to recruit, train and mentor high school educators and students in STEM fields, says Stephen T. Koury, PhD, research assistant professor of biotechnical and clinical laboratory sciences, who helps run the program.
Supported by a $1.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the collaborative initiative involves Koury’s department, the NSF and the New York State Area Health Education Center System, a unit of the UB Department of Family Medicine.