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BCM genetics department hosts fourth-annual high school educational genetics conference

For the fourth year in a row, the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine will host a genetics educational conference for advanced placement biology students at Bellaire High School in Houston on Feb. 16.

"It is important to promote awareness of science among high school students," said Dr. Fernando Scaglia, associate professor of molecular and human genetics at BCM, leader of the program and mentor to the students. "If you expose them early on, you may provide the motivation for them to become researchers or physician scientists interested in the field of genetics or other medical-related fields."

Specialized genetics track

This year, the event will include BCM medical students involved in the specialized Medical School Genetics Track, as well as fellows in molecular and human genetics at BCM.

"We have received so much positive feedback from students previously involved in this conference," said Scaglia. "We hope some of them will eventually follow a scientific career."

The event is sponsored by the American Society of Human Genetics, the Genetics Society of America, the National Sciences Resources Center and the National Association of Biology Teachers. It is part of the Geneticist-Educator Network of Alliances Project, a science project designed to build a framework of long-term collaboration between educators and geneticists and a sustainable infrastructure to facilitate the meaningful outreach efforts by genetics faculty members in secondary education.

Anna Loonam, an advanced placement biology teacher at Bellaire High School, will lead the event called "Genetics Night" with Scaglia.

More in-depth study

"The AP Biology curriculum is so broad that we do not have time for an in-depth study of human genetics," said Anna Loonam, advanced placement biology teacher at Bellaire High School. "This project provides an opportunity for my students to research and learn about numerous disorders."

Students from the advanced placement biology classes will participate in a poster session discussion on various genetic disorders, including Down syndrome, Turner syndrome, fragile X syndrome and MELAS syndrome among others. Divided into groups and assigned to different disorders, the students will educate their peers on each genetic disorder, the gene mutation or chromosomal abnormality-involved symptoms and research advances.

The presentations will be judged by Dr. Fernando Scaglia, Dr. Lorraine Potocki (director of the Genetics Track Program) and the BCM medical students and fellows. Scaglia also plans to introduce the students to a family of a child who suffers from a genetic disorder to provide them the human perspective on the importance of genetics research.

The event will be held Feb. 16 from 6-8 p.m. in the library at Bellaire High School, 5100 Maple St., Bellaire, TX 77401-4999. It is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the faculty lot.

For more information, contact Anna Loonam at ALOONAM@houstonisd.org.