HudsonAlpha to receive more than $1 million for outreach to Alabama students
NIH program funds creative, innovative initiatives
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Educators at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology have been awarded a grant in excess of $1.13 million to prompt Alabama students to make connections between the science classroom and the real world. “The grant, made possible through the National Institutes of Health, supports an initiative we’ve designed to help high school students identify genetic and environmental risks for human disease and then explore preventive measures based on that knowledge,” said Dr. Neil Lamb, director of educational outreach at HudsonAlpha.
According to Lamb, personal genetic information will, in the not-too-distant-future, be as important to medical records as blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The activities outlined in It’s Complex, the program Lamb and his team created, support a more genetically literate citizenry while inspiring students to adopt preventative behaviors that reduce the risk of complex disorders.
According to Lamb, scientists have begun to detect genetic and environmental factors that influence complex diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and many forms of cancer. “This information aids physicians and their patients in selecting the best course of action for management or prevention,” said Lamb. “We’re taking that knowledge about risk factors to encourage students to start thinking about their own health-related decisions.”
“Understanding that genetic and lifestyle factors interact and realizing how preventative behavior—maybe diet, activity level or a variety of other habits or choices may reduce disease risk, offers critical information to students,” noted Lamb.
It’s Complex has many links to state and national science standards and also provides students with information about bioscience careers. Part of the program is the implementation of an online activity that explores the world of genetic testing, risk determination and prevention or treatment options.
In the online activity, Lamb said students assume the role of a family physician, working with patients having recently undergone genomic testing for several complex disorders. Students review family histories, medical records, video interviews and genetic information to determine genetic and environmental risks.
“Collectively, these risks will be used to identify medical and lifestyle recommendations that reduce the chance of developing the disease,” said Lamb. This activity connects to student learning for genetic variation, complex inheritance and the contributions of biotechnology to medical practice - key components of both Alabama and national science standards.”
Online videos, animations, interviews and career profiles will support both students and educators and link content to workforce opportunities in the biosciences.
The Alabama Math Science and Technology Initiative, a statewide materials and professional development program, will facilitate statewide teacher training. Sparkman Ninth Grade School, Harvest; Columbia High School, Huntsville; and Decatur High School, Decatur, will pilot the program.
The highly competitive Science Education Partnership Award program is sponsored by the National Center for Research Resources, a part of the National Institutes of Health. Grant funds will be expended over a five-year period.