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National Science Foundation Grants Juniata $445,000 for Genomics Workshops

(Posted March 18, 2013)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Juniata College has received a $445,039 grant from the National Science Foundation to fund a series of faculty development workshops to be held at Juniata College and other college and university campuses on genomics education over the next five years.

The grant, which is one of about 20 awards spread across the U.S. through the Research Coordination Networks: Undergraduate Biology Education program, will allow the Juniata-headquartered Genome Consortium for Active Teaching Using Next-Generation Sequencing Network (GCAT-SEEK) to recruit collaborative institutional partners from beyond the mid-Atlantic region.

"We're creating educational laboratory modules that can be applied at liberal arts institutions across the United States."
Vince Buonaccorsi, associate professor of biology

In its first year, the grant will fund a four-day seminar on Juniata's campus, with subsequent locations for workshops the following years. The second-year workshop will be held at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa.
In the third and fourth years, two workshops are scheduled each summer -- one at Juniata and one at a minority-serving institution. Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md., hosts during year three and California State University at Los Angeles in year four. In the fifth year, only one workshop at Hampton University in Hampton, Va., is planned.

"We're creating educational laboratory modules that can be applied at liberal arts institutions across the United States," says Vince Buonaccorsi, associate professor of biology at Juniata and lead principal investigator on the grant.

During the workshops, faculty and students from several primarily undergraduate institutions of higher education will break into groups and gain hands-on experience in lab work, focused on a research project of their choosing to help update their teaching for a new wave of biology students.

"For faculty who are busy teaching, research experiences provide you with the motivation to learn new techniques," Buonaccorsi says.

This grant builds off a previous $1 million award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute that helped accelerate Juniata's Genomics Leadership Initiative, which also is designed to enhance genomic education. The current award also extends a 2011 NSF grant to Juniata that created a research collaboration network through which small colleges gain access to genetic sequencing at cores that are largely located at national laboratories and research universities.

"There are 400,000 biology students in the country so it's easy to see why NSF and Howard Hughes Medical Institute are investing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education," adds Buonaccorsi, who worked closely with recently retired Juniata biology professor Michael Boyle to write and submit the grant.

Major collaborators on the grant include faculty from the hosting institutions as well as Susquehanna, Duquesne and Penn State Universities.

Written by Genna Welsh Kasun

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.