Thanks John Bapst in Bangor, Maine!

pgEd was happy to be asked to spend the day with students at John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor, Maine.  I was invited by a student, D.J. Brooks, who I met this summer at Mount Desert Island Biological Lab’s Summer Course in Genomics – a great program I encourage students who love science to check out.

I have included a number of links and references to many of the things we talked about – either in the smaller classroom settings or in the school wide talk.

On a personal note, I  truly enjoyed my visit. It’s obvious John Bapst has wonderful students and teachers, and that you have a warm and vibrant learning community.  Hope the jazz band did well over the weekend in their competition!

We talked about the ways one can learn about their own DNA.  Starting with Newborn Screening in the State of Maine, as well as for profit companies such as 23andme and Athleticode.  There are many options and these are just a few.  pgEd encourages anyone thinking about delving into these services to educate yourself – take the time to read the fine print, the Terms of Service, Privacy Statement, etc!

I showed pictures and talked a little bit about the story of Nic Volker, the little boy who spent most of his life very sick until genome sequencing was able to reveal some information that helped with his treatment and diagnosis.  Read more about Nic and his family here, and for follow up on how he is doing, see this article.

We also touched on some of the scientific and social issues related to aggression, and the search for biological factors that may influence complex human traits.  Check out the NOVA special, freely available online, “Mind of a Rampage Killer“.  Speaking of Nova, don’t miss “Cracking your Genetic Code“, an excellent resource for the latest scientific and ethical perspectives on genetics.

I promised I’d send along a link to the famous (in some, small, geeky circles I suppose) PCR song.  Also, my favorite science song of all time is “Biologist’s Mother’s Day Song” – a really funny, sweet song, and you will actually learn something about mitochondrial DNA.

I have two requests to make of you, if you don’t mind  – one, pgEd is just launching a new project – seeking to map genetics education across the world. Can you take a few minutes to take our quiz and then pin yourself on our global map? If all of you do this – Bangor, Maine and it’s surrounding towns will be represented most clearly and powerfully on our map for sure! Any feedback about the quiz or the map is much appreciated.

Second, next time your parents say to you “what did you do at school today?”, consider telling them about some of the discussion and debates we had last week.  How much genetic information would you like to know about yourself, or your family? This question alone can generate a great deal of conversation and debate over dinner.

Thank you again, and please don’t hesitate to drop me a line at dwaring@genetics.med.harvard.edu with any questions or comments! Dana