USS students brush up on science of genomics, DNA

The Genome BC Geneskool arrived in Ucluelet last week to deliver two hour-long workshops to Ucluelet Secondary School science students.

A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA.

For example, a person consists of roughly 20 trillion cells with each one containing about 23,000 genes; the entire collection of genes is a genome.

Understanding how to read this information is the art of genomics and wielding this art could lead to the creation of better medicines and increase the effectiveness of existing medicines, according to the California-based Jackson Laboratory.

“By understanding the predictive power of patients’ genomes and the products of those genomes, it should be possible to identify individuals at risk of disease and to create smarter, more effective treatments for those who are already ill,” according to the Duke Institute for Genome sciences and policy.

This level of science can obviously be intimidating for high school students and USS teacher Michael Chapman was stoked to welcome Genome BC’s Geneskool programming to both his Grade 10 and 11 science classes on April 10.

“For the older kids its a great opportunity for them to get their feet wet and potentially look into doing some science courses at a post secondary institute and with the younger kids it’s great because it’s something that is informative and fun and just a great learning experience,” Chapman said. “One of the great things about this is they take some of the somewhat complex scientific things and are able to translate it into a fun activity so the kids don’t get intimidated when they hear about things like genotype phenotype and alleles.” Genome BC works with governments, academia and industry in sectors like forestry, aquaculture, and mining, to generate social and economic benefits for BC and Canada, according to it’s website.

The Geneskool’s programming is free and available to any BC school that asks for it, according to vice president of communications and education Sally Greenwood.

“We understand that genomics is kind of a disruptive new innovative technology and we feel it’s our responsibility and our opportunity to provide the next generation with skills and understanding around genomics and new technology,” she told the Westerly News, “So that they will have better understanding, see the relevance of it, and that there will be greater uptake and then we’ll really be able to realize the benefits of the technology.” She said without bringing the next generation up to speed on genomics, the science’s true potential will never be realized.

“Teachers are strapped schools are strapped and what we’re trying to do is just provide more exciting opportunities, maybe some lab tests and some tools and techniques, that the regular school system is not able to support on a regular basis,” she said.

“We bring in PhD and masters students and people who are