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The Genomics Landscape

DNA Day: Inspiring the Future Generation of Scientists

NHGRI Director Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D.
Eric Green
April 3, 2014

Engaging students at a young age offers our best chance to inspire them about scientific concepts and the process of scientific inquiry. For that reason, NHGRI has an active and robust outreach and education program. On April 25th, we will celebrate the 12th Annual National DNA Day, which commemorates the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the discovery of DNA's double-helical structure in 1953. NHGRI celebrates DNA Day every year with a number of events. Below, I highlight some of our DNA Day programs, as well as our other student- and teacher-focused activities that bring genomics into the classroom.
DNA Day offers students, teachers, and the public many exciting opportunities to learn about the latest advances in genomics research and to explore how genomics may be meaningful for their lives. More information about DNA Day activities can be found at or on the DNA Day Facebook page
For example, the DNA Day Ambassador Program ( sends NHGRI researchers and trainees out to middle schools, high schools, and colleges to talk about their work, their career paths, and exciting developments in genetics and genomics research. This program is beneficial for the students and teachers, and also gives NHGRI staff members an opportunity to be involved in science education - a challenging but rewarding endeavor!
This year, the DNA Day Ambassadors will have a strong presence at the USA Science and Engineering Festival (USEF) taking place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. on April 25-27. The USEF is a national grassroots effort to advance Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) education and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. NIH and NHGRI will be among the 650 exhibitors interacting with students, teachers, and the public - in fact, the NIH will have a very large 'footprint' at the festival, with 19 booths for activities that convey the 'coolness' of our science. At the last USEF in 2012, more than 250,000 individuals participated in the three-day event.
USA Science and Engineering Festival LogoDNA Day will coincide with USEF's Sneak Peak Friday, a day during which visitors can preview the exhibits before they open to the general public on Saturday and Sunday. School groups, homeschoolers, and military families will be coming in large numbers to the festival that day. On all three days of the USEF, our DNA Day Ambassadors will lead attendees through DNA-inspired hands-on activities. To learn more about the upcoming festival, visit
In past years, the DNA Day Chatroom has offered an opportunity for students from all over the world to ask NHGRI experts questions about basic and clinical research, careers in genomics, and the ethical, legal, and social implications of genomics research. The chatroom was live from 2005-2012, and in that time, NHGRI researchers and staff answered more than 5,000 questions from thousands of students at hundreds of schools around the world. To view transcripts for each of the past DNA Day Chatrooms, visit This year, all of our volunteer experts will be at the USEF, so we will not be hosting the chatroom.
Additionally, a variety of online tools are available on the NHGRI web site ( for teachers to use in developing their genetics and genomics curriculum on DNA Day and throughout the year. Two of my favorites are the Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms and the Genomic Careers website.
The Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms, available in both English ( and Spanish (, helps students, teachers, and the public understand the terms and concepts used in genetics and genomics research. In addition to definitions, experts share their descriptions of terms, and images, 3-D animation, and relevant links are provided for many terms. To engage young learners, the glossary is also available as an iPhone and iPad App.
The Genomic Careers website ( is designed to help students discover the many vocational opportunities in the dynamic fields of genomics and genetics. The site incorporates interactive video and guided tours to explore dozens of career possibilities and to hear from professionals about their careers and their experiences.
The NHGRI Education and Community Involvement Branch (ECIB), part of the Institute's Division of Policy, Communications, and Education, is the catalyst for these student-focused education programs. Working with outside organizations, ECIB reaches students and teachers from across the United States and around the world. To learn more about the full complement of ECIB programs and activities, visit

The Genomics Landscape is a monthly email message that aims to disseminate information directly from the NHGRI Director to the broader genomics community and other interested recipients. Each month, Dr. Green will endeavor to highlight two to four topics, typically featuring one in greater detail. To receive The Genomics Landscape each month sign up via the following ListServ: The Genomics Landscape ListservTo suggest topics for future messages, please send an e-mail to: NHGRILANDSCAPE@MAIL.NIH.GOV

More from The Genomics Landscape
  • Svante Pääbo's Archaic Genomics
    Using cutting-edge DNA isolation and sequencing techniques, Svante Pääbo, Ph.D., has contributed to the understanding of human evolution by analyzing the genomes of our ancestors. Dr. Pääbo recently made presentations at both the NIH and the Smithsonian Institution about his work. His research has shown that Neanderthals interbred with modern humans 50-80 thousand years ago. His genome sequencing efforts have also demonstrated that a set of ancient bones came from a previously unknown species of hominid, now called Denisovans. To view his NIH talk entitled "Archaic Genomics," see To view his talk at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History entitled "Finding Our Inner Neanderthal," see
  • Current Topics in Genome Analysis Lecture Series
    Every 18-24 months, NHGRI hosts a Current Topics in Genome Analysis lecture series aimed at providing an intensive review of some key areas of ongoing genomics research. Geared at the level of first-year graduate students, the 2014 series consists of 14 lectures on successive Wednesdays. In this 11th edition of the series, the lectures convey the notion that both laboratory- and computationally-based approaches are essential for genomics research. The lectures are practical in nature, and are intended for a diverse audience. Videos and handouts from the lectures are available at
  • Genomic Medicine VI Meeting
    NHGRI held its sixth in a series of 'Genomic Medicine' meetings earlier this year in Washington, D.C.; this meeting's focus and name was "Global Leaders in Genomic Medicine." The goals of the meeting were to identify: (1) areas of active translational and clinical genomics research and opportunities for collaborative efforts; (2) common barriers to the implementation of genomics in healthcare; (3) policy areas relevant to advances in genomics; and (4) nations with unique capabilities (such as national healthcare systems) that may allow rapid implementation of genomic medicine and the ability to measure key outcomes. Participants included researchers in genomic medicine from across the globe, as shown on the map below. The group shared numerous strategies and ideas, which are outlined in the executive summary of the meeting. That summary and a video of the meeting are available at
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