Center for Biotechnology Education Hosts Annual Research Symposium
On May 9, the Johns Hopkins University Center for Biotechnology Education hosted its 7th Annual Research Symposium to showcase research projects from its fellows and graduate students, as well as research from Montgomery County Public Schools high school students.
The symposium, which drew more than 100 attendees, took place at Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus. The evening began with a networking reception as well as the poster presentation that included more than 20 posters. Attendees had time to view the posters and talk with the researchers that included:
- National Cancer Institute (NCI) fellows in the Molecular Targets and Drug Discovery Technologies concentration of the Master of Science in Biotechnology degree
- United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) fellows in the Biodefense concentration of the Master of Science in Biotechnology degree
- A Noblis, Inc. fellow in the Master of Science in Bioinformatics degree
- Students who have completed research projects in bioscience and bioinformatics as part of their degree requirements for the Master of Science in Biotechnology, Bioinformatics, and Bioscience Regulatory Affairs degrees
“Anyone who saw the student exhibitions really understands the importance of what we’re doing here,” said Dr. Kathleen Burke, Associate Dean, Advanced Academic Programs, Krieger School of Arts & Sciences. “I can tell you I am not a scientist myself, but I saw things there that I’m going to want to know more about after this evening and intend to delve more deeply into myself. I hope that is the effect we’re going to have.”
Following the poster presentations and reception, Dr. Jonathan Pevsner presented a keynote presentation titled “Bioinformatics approach to understanding childhood brain disorders.” Dr. Pevsner is an Associate Professor at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and holds a primary faculty appointment at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. (He also teaches for the university’s liberal arts program and has been featured on the Discovery Channel as an expert on Leonardo da Vinci.)
During his talk, Dr. Pevsner focused on his work applying bioinformatics techniques – such as SNP genotyping and sequencing whole genomes – to childhood neurological disorders, from chromosomal disorders to autism to Rett Syndrome.
“There are wonderful technological advances being made that offer us the promise of understanding the genetic basis of disease and may lead to treatments,” Dr. Pevsner said before launching in to explanations of those advances.
During his talk, he also emphasized the importance of inspiring a next generation of bioinformatics “tool developers.”
“Biomedical and basic biology research is being transformed by novel methods such as next generation sequencing,” he said. “As we do this research, teams depend on people with expertise in bioinformatics and biotechnology and the kind of education those of you enrolled in the programs here are getting both as tool developers and tool users.
“What we thought [back in 2002] was a flood of data is now merely a trickle, and this will continue for years to come,” he added as part of a discussion about the importance of new bioinformatics tools that will help researchers distill data into meaningful information. “Our greatest challenge is to connect information at the DNA level to the whole cell that makes a child/person have some disease genotype. That's what we're trying to cover.
“We are making some small progress for autism and other disorders,” he concluded. “We don't have all the answers. We have more questions than answers. But I think that the sequencing technologies offer the prospect of at least cataloging what's going on and beginning to make sense of it.”
“It’s wonderful to see advances being made that 5-10 years ago were unimaginable, and this man is at the forefront of it all,” said Dr. Dick McCarty, Chair, Center for Biotechnology Education, Advanced Academic Programs, Krieger School of Arts & Sciences, when introducing Dr. Pevsner.
Dr. Kristina Obom, Program Director for the Master of Science in Bioinformatics and for the Master of Science in Biotechnology program, said she was pleased that Dr. Pevsner was able to introduce so many people to the field of bioinformatics and its importance for studying diseases.
“As always, our annual research symposium was a great evening,” said Dr. Obom. “We all appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the amazing work being done by both graduate school and high school students and the incredible research being done by Dr. Pevsner.”