Bringing hands-on science workshops to new communities

Masters degree students from the Roux Institute at Northeast University. Photo credit: Tiffany LauferMasters degree students from the Roux Institute at Northeast University visiting The Jackson Laboratory. Photo credit: Tiffany Laufer

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has renewed funding for Jackson Laboratory Genomic Education (JAX-GE), which in addition to continued support of advanced courses and workshops, will provide new skills training workshops at minority-serving institutions.

“Funding from HHMI allows us to reach learners across the U.S. and the globe through in-person, and hybrid, live-virtual courses,” says JAX Vice President for Education Charlie Wray, Ph.D., who serves as principal investigator of the grant. “We are grateful to HHMI for this renewed funding, which will allow for increased access to advanced courses with a priority of increased training opportunities for diverse and disadvantaged learners.”

The three-year grant, totaling $900,000, will continue to provide support for advanced courses and workshops, which offer educational programs in Maine, Connecticut and across the globe, as well as for scholarships that allow historically minoritized and disadvantaged individuals to attend JAX-GE programs at reduced or eliminated registration fees. Current workshop topics range from hands-on training in cancer modeling in mice within JAX’s dedicated training laboratory to “dry lab” workshops focused on emerging knowledge and applied skills in areas such as genomics and machine learning.

“This workshop was awesome! The staff were well informed, supportive, helpful and were able to answer all supporting questions,” wrote an anonymous 2022 hands-on workshop participant in a review of the course.

“I was hesitant about working with mice at first, but I really appreciated having the hands-on experience. I feel accomplished as I learned several techniques that could apply to mice work or research in the future or even (potentially) some other species. The overall experience was really great.”

Taking the show on the road

HHMI funding will allow JAX to deliver new, offsite workshops that provide customized mouse training including basic mouse use, surgical techniques and other skills tailored to the needs of a variety of institutions and learner groups.

The first workshop will be piloted at UConn Health, adjacent to the Laboratory’s Farmington, Connecticut campus, in November of 2022, and the second program will take place at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland in January of 2023. The Morgan State University workshop will support the university’s Research Centers in Minority Institutions program, which is funded by the NIH, and builds on other JAX and Morgan State University collaborations. The team plans to subsequently expand the tailored workshops to minority-serving institutions in California and the Southeast.

“One of the many benefits of the funding we receive from HHMI is that it allows us to innovate by piloting courses or workshops on new topics and in different formats,” says JAX Director of Courses and Conferences Brent Berwin, Ph.D. “Bringing hands-on workshops to minoritized and disadvantaged learners is especially important for reducing the barriers to participation.”

Going forward, many of JAX-GE’s existing and future portfolio of advanced courses will be planned with a hybrid format in order toprovide the important networking, hands-on and engagement opportunities for those that can attend in-person, while also providing a virtual option (as well as asynchronous viewing options) for those that prefer or require remote attendance. To learn more about JAX-GE programs or register for a course, visit