HudsonAlpha Hosts iPlant Collaborative Educator Workshop

Educators from several Alabama colleges and universities, as well as institutions in Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia, New York and Ohio gathered at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology on Aug. 13–14, 2014, for a Genomics in Education workshop presented by iPlant Collaborative.

“Genomic research is probably the biggest area of research in biology, so if you’re interested in biology, sooner or later you’re going to have to get down to the level of looking at genes and genomes,” said David Micklos, executive director of the DNA Learning Center at Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory in New York and one of the instructors of the workshop.

Presenting with Micklos was Uwe Hilgert, Ph.D., Director of Education Outreach and Training for iPlant and the BIO5 Institute at the University of Arizona.

The workshop showed educators how to incorporate high-level bioinformatics tools into science classrooms for students to analyze publically available genomic data or data they generate themselves in the laboratory. Teachers learned how to use the DNA Subway website to analyze DNA sequence data, conducted hands-on DNA extraction from a leaf of their choice, and then used DNA Subway to identify the organism by DNA sequencing.

“I currently use some of the DNA Subway bioinformatics tools with our Biotech Academy students,” said Educational Outreach Research Associate Michele Morris and coordinator of the HudsonAlpha Biotech Academy. “The students collect native Alabama plant samples from the Huntsville Botanical Gardens, extract the DNA and have it sequenced.  We use DNA Subway to examine the sequence data and identify the plants.

“This seminar taught me how to improve the activities I do with our students and showed me new tools that I can use with them to explore the DNA sequences they generate from their samples.”

The National Science Foundation established iPlant Collaborative in 2008 to develop a cyber infrastructure in support of life sciences research. The DNA Learning Center presents approximately five workshops each year around the U.S. as part of the iPlant Collaborative initiative. This was the first time the workshop has been offered at HudsonAlpha.