J. Craig Venter Institute's Mobile Genomics Lab Launches First School Visits in San Diego County

LA JOLLA, Calif., May 14, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) announced today the launch of their mobile genomics laboratory program in the San Diego, California area.  The DiscoverGenomics! Mobile Laboratory is a self-sufficient laboratory on wheels providing middle school students and teachers an opportunity to learn current bioscience concepts and to master the use of the cutting-edge laboratory equipment found in life science research facilities.

Beginning today the "lab on wheels" will be visiting five middle schools including:

Mar Vista Middle School, Sweetwater School District in Imperial Beach; Rincon Middle School, Escondido; Los Coches Creek Middle School, Cajon Valley School District in El Cajon; Mann Middle School, San Diego; Wilson Middle School, San Diego. It is expected that approximately 1400 students will participate in the hands-on experiments. Kids and their teachers will learn how to use laboratory equipment through exciting lab lesson plans such as, how to measure protein content in popular protein drinks, studying the effects of pharmaceuticals on various microoganisms, diagnosing patients with a genetic disease and determining the amount of phosphorus in an environmental sample.

The modified motor coach, outfitted with advanced laboratory equipment and all necessary utilities to conduct actual research, accommodates up to 32 students, their teacher, and two mobile lab instructors. The workstations feature necessary equipment such as pipettes, electrophoresis supplies, centrifuges and reagents.  JCVI received a private donation to provide stipends to each of the participating teachers, along with a generous gift from the Venter Family Foundation. 

One of the keys to the success of the DG! Program is the teacher preparation component. Prior to scheduling classroom visits, teachers must first participate in a 30-hour professional development course to learn the techniques and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) content behind the exercises, and to become familiar with the equipment. Once certified, teachers may then schedule up to four mobile laboratory visits during the school year based on their curricular schedule. Since the program launched in January 2006 in Maryland, more than 20,000 students have participated in 40,000 hands-on activities onboard the mobile laboratory.

Karen Nelson, Ph.D., JCVI President, who has witnessed the value of early science education said, "The JCVI is very appreciative of the financial donation from the Venter Family Foundation, which has allowed us to kick-start the California Program.  To date, the program has been extremely successful in the Washington, DC metro area and has become a great tool to stimulate the next generation of scientists about the wonders of science and the world around us especially as relates to genomics."

About the J. Craig Venter Institute and the JCVI Education Department

The JCVI is a not-for-profit research institute in Rockville, MD and San Diego, CA dedicated to the advancement of the science of genomics; the understanding of its implications for society; and communication of those results to the scientific community, the public, and policymakers. Founded by J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., the JCVI is home to approximately 200 scientists and staff with expertise in human and evolutionary biology, genetics, bioinformatics/informatics, information technology, high-throughput DNA sequencing, genomic and environmental policy research, and public education in science and science policy. The legacy organizations of the JCVI are: The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), The Center for the Advancement of Genomics (TCAG), the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives (IBEA), the Joint Technology Center (JTC), and the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation. The JCVI is a 501 (c)(3) organization. For additional information, please visit http://www.JCVI.org.

The JCVI Education Department has design the DiscoverGenomics! Science Education Program as a science enrichment program taught in formal and informal learning settings to reach students throughout their academic career. DiscoverGenomics! staff work closely with classroom teachers or coordinators to ensure each experience achieves the team's goals and objectives, reinforces specific school standards and gives maximum exposure to science careers. The DiscoverGenomics! staff has over 15 years' experience working with young students and adults.

SOURCE J. Craig Venter Institute



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