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Biotechnology Students Present Findings at Research Symposium


The Johns Hopkins University Center for Biotechnology Education hosted its 12th Annual Research Symposium, giving students an opportunity to explain their research findings to other students, parents, professors and industry professionals.

The event, held at the Montgomery County Campus, was an evening of networking, poster presentations and speakers, including keynote remarks from molecular biologist Sarah Anzick. Anzick, a former JHU biotechnology instructor, talked about her participation in the ancient genome sequencing of one of America’s first indigenous people – the skeleton of a 12,700-year-old boy found on her family’s property. (Read a Q&A with Sarah Anzick.)

Participants in the poster session included:

  • National Cancer Institute fellows in the Molecular Targets and Drug Discovery Technologies concentration of the Master of Science in Biotechnology degree program;
  • Students who have completed research projects in bioscience and bioinformatics as part of their requirements for the Master of Science in Biotechnology, Bioinformatics and Bioscience Regulatory Affairs degrees and;
  • High school students from Montgomery County Public Schools, presenting research posters from their internships.

In all, 13 students participated. Their research focused on topics including myeloma treatment, bioinformatics, prostate cancer, therapeutic antibodies, circadian rhythms and environmental genomics.

Kelly Hoffman is completing a Certificate in Biotechnology Education, a program designed for middle and high school science teachers. Hoffman teaches science at Gaithersburg High School. Her project for the symposium was titled “Bioinformatics in High School Biology Classroom with rmdGEO: Differential Expression Analysis of GEO Microarray Data Using R.”

Noting that bioinformatics is a growing field but is not part of a typical high school biology classroom, Hoffman sought to develop a bioinformatics unit that could be implemented broadly yet would not require programming experience. She also wanted to use free software and publically available data. She developed teaching materials and hopes to share it with other MCPS teachers.

“This process gave me a deeper content level and planted a lot of creative ideas,” Hoffman said.

Justin Harrison, who is completing his master’s in biotechnology, showed his poster, “Metagenomics as a Tool for Land Management.” The premise, he said, is that metagenomics can be used to identify specific microorganisms in soils, and that those microorganisms can be cultivated within the soil and leveraged as a tool for sustainability. That would be in place of environmental pollutants such as fertilizers. Metagenomics is “the study of genetic material recovered directly from environmental samples.”

The research symposium is an opportunity for the Center for Biotechnology Education to showcase its strengths in the area of biotechnology and research. It began as part of a partnership between Johns Hopkins and the National Cancer Institute. Each year NCI supports three to five master’s degree students in the molecular targets and drug discovery technologies concentration.



CATEGORY: Academics, K-12 Outreach, Research