Tech Corner June 11, 2021

JAX celebrates DNA Day

Teaching the Genome Generation
In this photo from 2017, science students from Maine's Lincoln Academy participate in a Teaching the Genome Generation program at their school. JAX photo by Aaron Boothroyd.

In honor of National DNA Day, The Jackson Laboratory’s Genomic Education team lead celebrations at JAX and across our communities.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…for genetics fans! National DNA Day is an annual celebration on April 25 that commemorates the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA and the completion of the Human Genome Project. The celebration was established in 2003 by the 108th United States Congress in order to recognize the importance of the future of genomics and herald the successful sequencing of the human genome as one of the most significant scientific accomplishments of the past century.

JAX’s festivities kicked off in March as high school teachers in the Teaching the Genome Generation program encouraged their students to prepare research essays for the annual TtGG DNA Day Essay competition. Twenty-one students submitted essays for this year’s topic: the diversity of reference genomes in genetics research. Congratulations to the students who earned top place in our JAX contest:

  • First place: Jahnavi Vadavalli (South Windsor High School, teacher Janet Belval)
  • Second place: Rakshan Chadha (South Windsor High School, teacher Janet Belval)
  • Third place: Fhasal Alam (Torrington High School, teacher Lisa Debany)
  • Honorable mentions: Samantha Sullivan (Mills E. Goodwin High School, teacher Stacie Hanscom), Arnav Thakrar and Kavin Shanmugam (South Windsor High School, teacher Janet Belval)
  • Special recognition to Daniel Nazeri (South Windsor High School, teacher Janet Belval) for earning honorable mention in the American Society of Human Genetics’ national essay competition.

Genomics educators Emaly Piecuch, Ph.D. and Christina Vallianatos, Ph.D. hosted a week of exciting events leading up to National DNA Day:

  • They presented a COVID-19 themed live lesson for high school students, breaking down the molecular biology behind the PCR diagnostic test and answering questions. The full lesson is available online so that students can practice interpreting data from the PCR test and learn more about careers in clinical research labs at their own pace.
  • Season two of JAX Career Chats premiered with a special live episode featuring director of diversity, equity and inclusion Moses Davis, Ph.D. Each episode of JAX Career Chats features a different professional, highlighting the diversity of jobs and skills needed in the biomedical workforce. New episodes will be released monthly on our YouTube channel.
  • JAX debuted the new Virtual Open House, designed especially for high school students and teachers. The experience offers engaging research presentations, advice on how to best prepare for and pursue careers in genomics, and lessons and activities for in-person and remote learning. The content covers themes across genetics, cancer biology, neuroscience, bioinformatics and computational biology.
  • JAX teamed up with the Million Women Mentors Connecticut Chapter and the DNA Today podcast to put together a Celebrate DNA Day Tool-Kit, featured on the JAX Genetics Learning Resources page. These curated resources were designed to help student explore genetics careers, provide genetics lessons to teachers, and give everyone resources to discover how genetics is important in our everyday lives.

DNA Day is an opportunity to put genetics and genomics in the spotlight. It’s a time when students, teachers, and the public can learn about and celebrate the latest breakthroughs in genetics research and learn how those advances might impact their lives. We at JAX had a blast celebrating this year and are already looking forward to DNA Day 2022 festivities!