Two teachers in UB genetics workshop

Albion High School teacher Sandra Climenhaga and her colleague work with computer-based tools to analyze a sequenced bacterial genome.

Genetics Workshop Fosters Innovative Science Education

Published July 24, 2014

University at Buffalo scientists are preparing area high school teachers to bring cutting-edge lessons to their science classrooms by acquainting them with computer-based tools for basic genomic analysis.

“Today’s high school students will come of age when personal genetic information is increasingly used in health care, so it is vital that they understand genetic concepts...”
Stephen T. Koury, PhD
Research assistant professor of biotechnical and clinical laboratory sciences

Building Essential Knowledge for the Future

“This training gives teachers the tools they need to introduce their students to the rich history, complexity and excitement of the world of genetics and genomics,” says Stephen T. Koury, PhD, research assistant professor of biotechnical and clinical laboratory sciences.

That awareness, Koury notes, is important for today’s students, regardless of whether they pursue science-related careers.

“High school students will come of age when personal genetic information is increasingly used in health care, so it is vital that they understand genetic concepts necessary to make informed medical decisions,” he says. “They also are bound to confront future personal, social and ethical challenges related to genetics and genomics.”

Koury, co-principal investigator on the project, leads the program and helps train the teachers.

Hands-On Training In Research Techniques

A week-long workshop held at UB July 7-11 involved 31 high school teachers from Western New York, including Buffalo public and charter schools and the Cleveland Hill, Letchworth, Albion, Attica, Warsaw, Pioneer and Newark school districts.

Through the interactive, hands-on experience, the teacher-trainees learned to analyze a sequenced bacterial genome using several new algorithmic programs from the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

They also learned about gene annotation — a process of attaching biological information to sequences — and other research techniques.

The teachers then began developing lesson plans to share their new skills with their own students.

Research Scientists Lend Their Expertise

Other UB scientists who lend their expertise to the workshops include: 

National Science Foundation Funds Partnership

The summer workshops are offered through the Western New York Genetics in Research Partnership, a science education and enrichment coalition.

The partnership aims to engage young students and their teachers in original research and ultimately encourage youth to consider high-demand life science careers.

It is funded with a three-year, $1.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation.