Bioinformatics Inquiry through Sequencing (BioSeq)

  • Project Description

    Current DNA sequencing technologies have made DNA sequencing fast and inexpensive, igniting a revolution in the study of genetics. The BioSeq project provided high school students with direct exposure to sequencing and the bioinformatics field with a host of curricula, classroom activities, mentorship, and research opportunities. You can read about how we incorporated Genetics and Race and Personal Microbiomes with Next Generation Sequencing for our high school audience.

    The Foundations of the BioSeq Model

    • Research: Bioseq focused on open-ended research questions which don’t have a predetermined answer. By participating in our moduels and activities, students got to experience the research process all the way from asking a question to communicating a conclusion.
    • Engagement: Our modules were designed to encourage students to be responsible for their samples and ultimately the quality of their data. Many of our module materials are available on this website and can be used even without running a full sequencing experiment.
    • Access: In addition to the sequencer itself, we provided all materials and equipment for classrooms and students running our modules or engaging in their own research projects.

    Ways to Participate

    • Modules: The modules developed at BioSeq are available for interested teachers. BioSeq provides equipment and materials for all the steps necessary in collecting and preparing samples.
    • Open Application: Interested high school teachers and students can propose their own research projects. BioSeq works with each proposal until the project is ready to run and provides the materials and equipment necessary to make it happen
    • Over the Summer: Tufts Summer Session runs a six-week class for rising high school seniors.

    For inquiries about using BioSeq’s equipment and curriculum contact Matthew Fierman, Ph.D., Program Administrator (

    For inquiries about the BioSeq Summer Study Class, call 617-627-2000, email or visit

    Summer Sessions are held on the Tufts University Campus, Dowling Hall, 419 Boston Avenue, Medford, MA 02155.

  • Abstract

    The overall goal for the Bioinformatics Inquiry through Sequencing (BioSeq) project is to provide opportunities for a broad audience of people to learn about the field of bioinformatics through inquiry based research. Three main activities will support this goal:

    1. Increase knowledge of and participation in inquiry-based bioinformatics research among students and educators by establishing a sequencing center at Tufts University’s Medford Campus for educational use. This sequencing center will be available to college students and high school students through college level research courses and will also be available to educators and students who wish to integrate sequencing into classroom projects science fair projects college level theses and graduate level research through an application process.
    2. Introduce bioinformatics to college students and high school students through entry level semester-long research-based courses designed to teach students laboratory skills computer skills and research skills in the context of student designed projects. The high school student course will happen during the summer session students will be able to receive college credit. Scholarships will be available for underrepresented minorities and those of low socioeconomic status to participate in the course.
    3. Increase teacher knowledge of bioinformatics and inclusion of bioinformatics concepts in their courses by developing modular activities and curricular units to describe bioinformatics concepts including the impact of bioinformatics on scientific and medical research.

    Some of these activities and units will be integrated into existing high school biology and computer science courses and will include understanding of how bioinformatics and genomics have influenced individual and public health through innovations such as Genome Wide Association studies (GWAs) and Direct to Consumer (DTC) genetic testing. This five year project will involve faculty staff graduate students and undergraduate students from Tufts’ Chemistry and Computer science departments faculty and students from Bunker Hill Community College and teachers and high school students from four diverse urban partner school districts.

  • Additional Information


    Grant funds STEM, genetics education program for local students
    $100K grant from Cummings Foundation continues Tufts University’s BioSeq Program, which encourages science students to think critically about genetics

    MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. (June 13, 2017) – Tufts University’s popular Bioinformatics Inquiry through Sequencing (BioSeq) program will continue to teach local students about the possibilities of genetics work thanks to a $100,000 grant from Cummings Foundation.

    BioSeq uses an interactive curriculum that emphasizes the value of genetics in personally relevant contexts, preparing students for research careers and enhancing understanding of how genetics work can shape and save lives.

    The BioSeq program is part of Tufts and Cummings Foundation’s legacy of support for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education opportunities for students in greater Boston.

    Started with funding from the National Institutes of Health Science Education Partnership Award, and now in its fifth year, BioSeq has reached over 1,000 students in Medford, Somerville and Malden schools.

    Until recently, genetic sequencing was labor-intensive, slow and expensive. Thanks to next-generation sequencing, however, scientists are employing new tools to gather genetic data and to draw meaningful conclusions on how the data can push the boundaries of medical knowledge and bring the promise of personalized medicine closer to reality. Despite these tremendous advances, this technology is largely out of the reach of the high school audience.

    Due to cost and curriculum restraints, students in low-income and diverse urban communities often have limited opportunities to interact with genetics science, though within their lifetimes, current high school students will have to understand how their genetics may influence the treatments they receive and the drugs they are prescribed. The BioSeq program works to expose students to the possibilities of genetic sequencing so they will be more comfortable and better informed as genomics plays an increasingly influential role in health and medicine.

    BioSeq engages and challenges students in their high school classrooms by focusing on inquiry-based experiments that relate to them directly. This grant will enable the program to continue to support classroom experiments – such as “The Microbiome Portrait Experiment” in which students analyze their own DNA – as well as local students and classes with their genomic science fair projects and will provide scholarships for the BioSeq summer program, run by Tufts Summer Studies.

    “We’re very grateful for Cumming Foundation’s generosity and its continued commitment to both Tufts University and the goal of enhancing STEM education for young students from our local communities. Because of Cummings Foundation’s support, students will have opportunities to learn by asking and answering their own questions about genetics,” said Matthew Fierman, Ph.D., BioSeq’s program administrator.

    Article courtesy of TuftsNow.

Project Audience

High school teachers and students

Subjects Addressed

Genetics, DNA sequencing, personal microbiomes, Next Generation Sequencing