Teacher in Jackson Laboratory distance-learning program earns NABT Genetics Education Award

Bar Harbor, Maine –Robert Gotwals, M.S., a chemistry and research instructor at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham and a collaborator in an innovative Jackson Laboratory distance-learning program, was selected by the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) to receive the 2014 Genetics Education Award.

Since 2007, Gotwals has worked with The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, to create and implement a nationally award-winning program for high school students to conduct genetics research. Using videoconferencing, the students in the program, including Gotwals’ students in North Carolina, collaborate with Jackson Laboratory Professor Gary Churchill, Ph.D., and other JAX scientists to analyze complex genetic and genomic data obtained from disease studies in mice.

Congratulating Gotwals for the award, Churchill says, “Bob was willing to go out on a limb with us from day one. He is committed to his students and provides advice and critical support for the other classroom teachers. Bob’s enthusiasm has helped the course to succeed and grow beyond our expectations.” 

The annual award recognizes innovative, student-centered classroom instruction to promote the understanding of genetics and its impact on inheritance, health, and biological research. Sponsored by the American Society of Human Genetics and the Genetics Society of America, the award will be presented to Gotwals on Saturday, Nov. 15, in Cleveland, Ohio. In addition to a recognition plaque and a year of complimentary NABT membership, Gotwals will receive a $1,000 cash prize.

Gotwals, who holds an undergraduate degree in chemistry and master’s degrees in science education and education for the hearing-impaired, has developed resources related to research and computational chemistry for both students and teachers. He also developed the North Carolina High School Computational Chemistry server, which he continues to support; and curricula in general chemistry, research methods, and computational sciences, which he has taught at NCSSM since 2006.

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 a new genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Conn. It employs 1,600 staff, and its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health.