Clemson launches DNA learning center

Clemson University has teamed up with the nation's leading genetics learning center to help S.C. students and teachers understand the far-reaching impact genetics will have on the future.

Clemson Provost Doris R. Helms and David A. Micklos, executive director of the Dolan DNA Learning Center in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., announced the creation of the South Carolina DNA Learning Center.

"The mission of the Dolan DNA Learning Center is to prepare students and families to thrive in the gene age," said Micklos. "We envision a day when all elementary students are exposed to principles of genetics and disease risk; when all high school students have the opportunity to do hands-on experiments with DNA; and when all families have access to genetic information they need to make informed health care choices. The center at Clemson will serve South Carolina, preparing students and families for the future."

The S.C. center will be located in Jordan Hall on the Clemson campus. Robert E. Ballard, professor in biological sciences, will be director.

"If all goes well with renovations, we would like to begin bringing middle and high school students to campus during the academic year for a half-day workshop in genetics and biotechnology in the spring 2005," said Ballard.

Helms announced the center April 22 at the dedication of the university's Biosystems Research Complex. The campus building and greenhouses are high-tech laboratories for scientists researching biotechnology. Combining diverse fields, including molecular genetics, biology, chemistry and engineering, biotechnology holds the promise of providing an array of benefits in medicine, new materials and environmental sustainability.

"Genetic literacy is essential to help us better manage our own health and our family's health and to understand the life-science issues affecting our lives and livelihoods," said Helms, a biologist as well as provost.

S.C. center programs will focus on college preparatory education. The South Carolina center will help prepare college-bound students for their future roles as working professionals and civic leaders in government, industry, agriculture, education, engineering and medicine. The Clemson-based program also will work with middle and high-school teachers.

Tentative staffing for the center for its first year includes a director, instructor, teaching assistant for prepping and assisting in the labs and an administrative assistant. As the program grows, another instructor, curriculum specialist, web/computer specialist will be added, said Ballard. "I would also like to develop an intern program for science education undergraduates, possibly genetics undergraduates as well, to teach in the center."

The S.C. center seeks broad input to ensure it serves the public. "There will be an advisory board with members from all sectors -- educators, businesses, corporations, government," said Ballard. "I would like to have someone from the S.C. Department of Education serve on the board. All curricular activities developed by the center will comply with S.C. science standards."

The center will be funded with public and private money. "We will follow the Dolan DNA Learning Center model, seeking grants, contributions, private support and fees," said Ballard.

The Dolan DNA Learning Center is the world's first science center devoted entirely to public genetics education. It is an operating unit of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, an important center for molecular genetics research. The center extends the laboratory's traditional research and postgraduate education mission to the college, pre-college and public levels.

Not waiting until the space is ready, the S.C. center has a number of programs scheduled beginning this June.

June - July, 2004 Five sessions of a Summer Science Program course in genetics and biotechnology are being offered for high school students. The workshops are modeled after the Dolan DNA Learning Center's "DNA Science" summer workshop for middle and high school students. Program funded by student fees.

July, 2004 The center will host a two-week, in-residence course (3 hrs graduate credit) for in-service high school teachers. Course title: Gene Discovery. NSF will fund the course.

July, 2004 The center will host a two-week, in-residence training workshop in genomics and proteomics (3 hrs graduate credit). The program is aimed at faculty from smaller teaching colleges and high school science teachers. NSF will fund the course.

August, 2004
The center will host at Clemson University a one-week workshop for two- and four-year college faculty on plant genetics and genomics. The theme is classroom activities in plant genetics for college students. The workshop is presented by the Dolan DNA Learning Center. NSF will fund the workshop.

Fall, 2004 Center staff will go out to the school districts and publicize programs for middle and high school students.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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