The Metagenomics Education Partnership: Harnessing the Power of Microbial Genome Sequencing and Big Data with High School Students and Teachers.

  • Abstract

    The Metagenomics Education Partnership: Harnessing the Power of Microbial Genome Sequencing and Big Data with High School Students and Teachers will further an ongoing partnership between the Department of Biotechnical and Clinical Laboratory Sciences (BCLS) of the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the New York State Area Health Education Center System (NYSAHEC), the Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics & Life Sciences at the University at Buffalo and the Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper (BNW) with underserved/disadvantaged schools across a 14-county region of Western New York. The proposal activities will 1) develop and strengthen partnerships between local high schools, colleges, biotechnology companies, and local not-for profit organizations and serve as a pipeline for recruiting students to scientific and health-related careers, with an emphasis on those from underrepresented groups; 2) utilize community-linked citizen science involving metagenomic analyses of water samples in Western New York with underserved high school students, empowering them to assist in safeguarding local water resources for present and future generations; and 3) allow high school students and teachers to sequence and analyze a microbial genome, supporting their explorations of Big Data, STEM and health-related careers related to genomics. Proposal participants will be among the first high school students and teachers to use third generation Oxford Nanopore MinION sequencing technology, giving them first-hand experience with the preparation of genomic DNA samples for sequencing, in school DNA sequencing, tools for determining the makeup of microbial communities from sequencing data, and the construction of a microbial genome through the compilation of a large number of overlapping long MinION sequence reads. The project will include a week-long teacher professional development covering hands on experience with all aspects of project activities in the summer, followed by three different day-long refresher training sessions for teachers during the school year. Students will perform identical project activities during the academic year under the guidance of their teachers and faculty from the partnership. Their data on waterway quality will in addition be shared and publicized by BNW, and their microbial genome sequencing data will ultimately be shared on GenBank. The authentic research experiences for students involving new DNA sequencing technology and big data manipulations will increase their interest, engagement and future performance in STEM, and positively influence their long-term STEM and health-related career goals.

Associated SEPA Project(s)