The McDonnell Genome Institute(MGI) recognizes the significance of scientific education in our community.
The Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program continues to provide virtual tutoring for middle and high school students on STEM subjects, ACT tutoring, and more. Students come from St. Louis city and county schools as well as Boys and Girls Clubs. This spring we have provided tutoring for at least 35 students through the outstanding service of over 20 WashU graduate and undergraduate students.
Over the summer, our tutoring efforts will wind down as we kick off our Virtual SEPA Summer Internship, which will run the month of June. We will welcome 15 high school students to the program, and they will work both independently and in small groups to learn how to analyze DNA sequences as a part of a research project. Mentored by WashU graduate students, these high schoolers will not only have a chance to work on a real scientific project, but they will also participate in college preparation seminars and workshops to ready them for the next step in their careers.
Not to be outdone by the SEPA program, the Opportunities in Genomics Research (OGR) program, which is also run out of the McDonnell Genome Institute, has been hosting five post-baccalaureate students since the fall. Working full-time on research, these students have also been taking part in workshops on computer programming, scientific presentation, and graduate school preparation. Four of the students have been accepted into PhD programs in the fall: three will attend WashU for their graduate work while another will attend The Ohio State University. The fifth student will continue in the program for one more year as she prepares to enter an MD/PhD program.
Over the summer, and after a year break due to the pandemic, the OGR program will once again host its Undergraduate Summer Scholars program, hosting nine students from universities across the nation. This in-person research experience places students in WashU labs that use genomic-based approaches to address key outstanding questions in biology and the biomedical sciences.
Finally, since there was not the opportunity to go out to visit schools to celebrate DNA Day this year, a virtual program was created. At-home activities, a refresher on DNA and genetics topics, and a photo challenge were all available on the MGI website in April. The goal is to expand these offerings for teachers, parents, and anyone else who wants to bring the excitement of genetics into their lives!
The Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program, run through The McDonnell Genome Institute, has organized multiple events over this last quarter to support educational outreach to dozens of high school students in St. Louis.
Every week, the program hosts four different tutoring sessions to help high school students succeed in their classes, prepare for the ACT test, and write successful college application essays. In total, these tutoring sessions reach over 40 students from many high schools and other groups in the St. Louis area, including Jennings High School, Riverview Gardens High School, Metro High School, and The Sophia Project. Ensuring the success of these tutoring sessions are an outstanding and talented group of dedicated tutors – WashU Ph.D., MD/Ph.D., MD, and undergraduate students – who ensure the high school students receive expert training in whatever field or topic desired.
In addition, to these tutoring sessions, the SEPA program organized a three-week teaching module on genetics and genomics for a biology class at Jennings High this fall, which was run by a quintet of Ph.D. Students.
Finally, Dr. Kristine Wylie and several WashU graduate and undergraduate students host a weekly class for another biology class at Jennings High School in which students actively evaluate and interpret large genomic data sets relevant to racial and socioeconomic disparities in women’s health. Through these efforts, the SEPA Program and MGI seek to minimize the negative impact the COVID pandemic exerts on secondary education in our region and especially our city.
As part of an ongoing program, MGI made a pivotal switch to provide support during the pandemic of COVID-19.
In collaboration with the St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church, (http://www.stjamesstl.org/) located in The Ville area of St. Louis, our initial summer program changed to a different type of assistance. We worked with The Vile Community Development Foundation to support a new food bank run out of St. James Church. with six food shipments from April to July.
To continue our education program, MGI ran a virtual summer program for seven high school students from Jennings Senior High School (http://jenningssrhigh.mo.jsh.schoolinsites.com/) and Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School (MICDS https://www.micds.org/). They participated in a literature-based review on viruses, how viruses infect humans, viral evolution, and vaccine development. A regular discussion between teachers and students occurred over 6 weeks starting early July and ending the middle of August. The students were taught by Ph.D., MD-PhD, and MD students providing a great perspective as a student themselves.