JAX Genomic Medicine builds genomic education program, hires associate program director

Farmington, Conn. – The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine is building genomics education programs for high school and undergraduate students and their teachers, hiring an associate program director for genomic education and developing plans to partner with schools and institutions across Connecticut.

JAX Vice President for Education Tom Litwin, Ph.D., says, “Providing Connecticut’s young people with more paths to rewarding careers in the sciences is an important component of The Jackson Laboratory’s commitment to the state.”

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Walter Nakonechny

JAX has hired Walter Nakonechny, an educator with experience both in the classroom and at the lab bench, as the associate program director for genomic education at The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine. Nakonechny is the first JAX Education staffer hired at the institution’s Connecticut facility.

“In his new role,” says JAX STEM Program Director Mike McKernan, “Walt will design and implement genomics education programs for high school and undergraduate audiences, including teachers. Walt will expand existing JAX programs, including the Summer Student Program, in Connecticut, and will develop partnerships to implement genomics education at the high school and college level.”

Nakonechny has been a Connecticut high school science teacher since 1999, teaching biology, chemistry, bioethics and botany and taking an active role in science curriculum development and student life.

A graduate of the University of Connecticut with a B.S. in natural resources (1992), and M.S. in biochemistry (1995), Nakonechny also pursued doctoral studies in molecular and cell biology at UConn. He investigated protein folding both in vitro and in vivo, with particular interest in the folding of the coat protein of bacteriophage P22.

JAX offers educational programs for scientists at various stages in their careers—from high school students investigating genetic diseases to experienced researchers defining the cutting edge of genomics research. A new Clinical and Continuing Education Program expands the audience to include clinicians who are interested in incorporating genetics and genomics into their thinking and practices.

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution and National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a facility in Sacramento, Calif., and the new genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Conn. It employs a total staff of more than 1,600. Its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health.