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Regional Node Event

GEP Southeast Regional Node Meeting virtual via laptop computer

Southeast Regional Node Meeting – April 21, 2023

The GEP’s Southeast Regional Node held its Spring 2023 Regional Node Meeting virtually on Friday, April 21st, with 20 participants from Alabama and Georgia, representing the University of Alabama, Clayton State University, Columbus State University, and Agnes Scott College. The keynote speaker Dr. Avery Davis Bell, a postdoc in Dr. Annalise Paaby’s lab at Georgia Tech, gave a fascinating talk on how genetic variation in different wildtype strains of C. elegans nematodes display striking divergence in transcriptomic responses to RNAi-mediated knockdown of par-1, indicating that downstream effects of RNAi knockdowns in the N2 reference strain are not necessarily recapitulated in other wildtype strains. In addition, Dr. Bell gave a wonderful account of her journey in academia, going from wet-lab work to computational biology due to disability, and tips and tricks for undergraduates and graduate students to find the right mentors and labs that will support them. Following the keynote address, Dr. Laura Reed and Dr. Brian Schwartz moderated the breakout rooms for students to give 5-minute presentations on gene annotation of multiple genes in the insulin signaling pathway, with some really surprising results. Students from Dr. Reed’s lab, Dr. Schwartz’s lab, and Dr. Srebrenka Robic’s lab presented their GEP-related research. Overall, this 2-hour event was highly successful in fostering stronger connections within the Southeast Regional Node on behalf of the students and faculty, as well as interacting with such an inspirational talk from Dr. Bell on genomics in C. elegans.

What worked well for your event that might help others plan similar events?

Working closely with Regional Nodes’ leadership via check-in meetings.

What worked well for your event that might help others plan similar events?

The virtual event itself was fine. There were still some issues with low participation from GEP Southeast Node faculty overall that requires more introspection on how to increase engagement in a virtual forum.
Pennsylvania Node Event Group Photo

Pennsylvania New Member Training January 2023

We are thrilled to welcome the following eight new members of the GEP:


This group consisted of a number of Postdoctoral Fellows at The University of Pennsylvania, as well as teaching faculty and staff at several institutions in the Philadelphia area.

This was the first Regional Node Training following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was considered a success by the participants, who were excited to carry their new GEP training into the classroom.

Thank you to Dr. Jamie Siders, who organized and conducted the bulk of the training. Drs. Nik Tsotakos, Alexis Nagengast, Le Paliulis, Lisa Kadlec, and Hemi Mistry also contributed as trainers. The event benefited from the work of many current and past members of the PennPORT Postdoctoral Program, including Drs. Alex Harris, Nathan Fried, and Steven Foltz. This training would never have gotten off the ground without the coordination and effort of Dr. Jan Burkhardt, Program Director for the PennPORT Postdoctoral Program.

We thank Rutgers University in Camden for hosting the training!

Pennsylvania Node Event Group Selfie
Left to Right: Nathan Fried, Nik Tsotakos, Tali Brodetzki, Steven Foltz, Aimee Farria, Jamie Siders, Tess Cherlin, Kristian Santiago, Alex Harris, Linda Robinson, & Hemi Mistry

What worked well for your event that might help others plan similar events?

We had great communication among participants and trainers/organizers, which was hugely helpful!

Trainer Indi Bose provides an introduction to the Pathways Project on via projector

Carolinas New Member Training December 2022


The Carolinas Regional Node held a New Member Training event hosted by Dr. Maria “Marisol” S. Santisteban at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Pembroke.

Trainers for the Carolinas Node’s first ever in-person (cheers!) New Member Training were GEP veterans Marisol Santisteban (UNC-Pembroke), Indi Bose (Western Carolina University), and Vida Mingo (Columbia College). The eight trainees were from Richmond Community College, Gardner-Webb University (2), Campbell University, North Carolina State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, and UNC-Pembroke (2). Having some of the trainees attend in pairs from the same institution provided natural partners that worked very efficiently during practice time and also helped one another during the training. They even started to solidify detailed plans for implementations during the training. Actually, all trainees planned to get something starting either in the Spring or Fall 2023 semester; many will start with one or a few independent research students to get the ball rolling and then implement in the classroom.

Group photo of trainers and trainees

Back Row Left to Right: Seth O’Conner, Tim Anderson, Quentin Locklear, Carly Sjogren
Middle Row Left to Right: Vida Mingo, Susan Manahan, Meredith Rowe, Maria J. Pereira
Front Row Left to Right: Marisol Santisteban, Stephanie Mathews, Indi Bose


The training followed closely the tried-and-true schedule and format of the 2.5-day training in St. Louis. Arriving on a Wednesday night, trainees enjoyed a superb dinner buffet in the elegant Chancellor’s dining room and started to get acquainted with one another. Then, they listened to a presentation to introduce the GEP. The next two and a half days they were hard at work in two different locations on campus, only five minutes from the hotel where they stayed. On Saturday morning after the distribution of credentials, post-event survey, and some more discussion on implementations, Indi gave a presentation on two of the projects her students had worked on that semester (it was not possible for us to have the student attend because the training happened at the beginning of winter break) and had very interesting findings that really grabbed the interest of the trainees. In the afternoon they left to go back home.

Trainees discussing while working through activity on computers
Trainer assisting trainee while both looking at computer
Trainer pointing to computer screen of trainee
Trainee Stephanie Mathews works on computer activity
The real highlight of the event was the interactions that occurred during training and while in breaks. The exchanges were fluid, the questions were promptly addressed, and there was input from trainees and trainers and reactions in real time, smooth and natural. Even when the days were long, it felt like we were making progress together effortlessly. Because we have a very well thought out training that has been refined through the years with the work input and feedback of many people, and the leadership of our director of training. It went well because the GEP machine is well oiled, and the leadership and the staff work tirelessly, and all of us contribute in small and big ways to grow it. Thanks to all who made this training possible!!!
Members took a group selfie while working in the lab

NY/NJ Regional Node Meeting – June 3, 2022

NEW YORK, NY, June 3, 2022.

The New York and New Jersey Regional Node had a one-day, professional development event hosted by Dr. Shubha Govind at City College New York.

Dr. Johnny Ramroop and undergraduate Jennifer Chou trained GEP members on working with parasitoid wasps. Following an introductory lecture, GEP members dissected Drosophila larvae infected with wasp eggs and larvae.

Node members using lab equipment to dissect infected fly larvae

Confocal microscopy images of Drosophila hemocytes stained with nuclear and cytoplasmic markers



Drosophila hemocytes were collected, stained with nuclear and cytoplasmic markers, and observed using confocal microscopy.

Members sitting around conference table while eating lunch


Following lunch, members discussed curriculum successes and frustrations from the past year. Possible node initiatives such as Node-based student teaching assistants and virtual professor office hours, when teaching annotation in the same semester, were proposed and 2022-2023 Node events were planned.

Since the Node event fell on a day when Alumni Workshop 2022 events were planned, we were able to join the virtual event together as a watch party. 

What worked well for your event that might help others plan similar events? 

Probably would have been better to use a conference room or a classroom for the hybrid sessions, difficulty getting multiple computers online, plugged in (if we had used rooms typically used for this function, would not have had to try to plan for extra extension cords, etc.)

What lessons were learned from challenges in the planning or execution of the event that might be helpful to others? 

Personal emails to new members to encourage them to come, rather than group email blast.

GEP Puerto Rico Regional Node New Member Training January 2023 group photo of trainees

Puerto Rico New Member Training January 2023

Please join us in welcoming the newest members of the Puerto Rico Node to the GEP community (pictured left to right):
Special thanks to Alexa Sawa, Juan Carlos Martínez-Cruzado, and GEP staffer Katie Sandlin for conducting their training, Edu B. Suárez Martínez for coordinating all the wonderful food, Abigail Ruiz-Rivera for assisting GEP staffer Sarah Crocker-Buta with securing lodging, Angel O. Custodio, Alondra Díaz Lameiro, and Liza V. Jiménez Rodríguez for sharing their experiences and mentoring throughout the training, and the University of Puerto Rico at Ponce for providing the meeting space.
Carolinas Regional Node Meeting April 22, 2022

Carolinas Regional Node Meeting – April 22, 2022

The Carolinas Regional Node Meeting was held virtually on Friday, April 22, 2022, 9:00am-12:15pm (ET). The meeting kicked off with brief welcome remarks by Jeff French, a Node member from North Greenville University, SC, who also introduced our keynote speaker. Nate Mortimer from Illinois State University, who leads the Parasitoid Wasps Project in the GEP, gave an inspiring talk on “Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Parasitoid Wasps of Drosophila.” We had a break between 9:50-10am to allow for preparation for students’ presentations. Right before diving on these, Marisol Santisteban from UNC at Pembroke, current Carolinas Node leader, gave a brief introduction to the GEP and acquainted attendees with the organization: membership, different modes of participation, and the projects that are currently pursued. 

Engaging presentations by five students from South Wesleyan University (Michelle Eller, advisor) and Appalachian State University (Clare Scott Chialvo, advisor) took us into the intricacies of their projects in the Insulin Signaling Pathways Project and in an emerging new project on detoxification genes, and the challenges of manual annotation of species closely related to D. melanogaster, such as D. immigrants. After a break from 11-11:15, the last hour of the day was a professional development event geared towards students. The “Careers in Genomics” panel hosted 5 experts from different Genomics fields, with different levels of education (not all PhDs), and not all from academia. All panelists were female and from diverse backgrounds. Four of the five panelists also work in North Carolina which shows our Carolinas students that there is a future for them in this field that’s also close to home. Sabrina Powell, Education Program Director of the Precision Medicine in Health Care in the Department of Genetics at UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine generously helped assemble this extraordinary array of experts and prepared a fictional but realistic scenario about a 3-year-old boy diagnosed with autism, who is referred to the UNC Genetics Clinic for further testing. The testing reveals two specific variants in Mateo’s exome, one which is known to cause a specific subtype of autism and another which is associated with a high risk of adult-onset dementia. There was a role for professionals at each of our panelists’ positions:

  • Kate Foreman, CGC, Genetic Counselor (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill);
  • Meghan Halley, PhD, MPH, Senior Research Scholar (Center for Biomedical Ethics, Stanford University);
  • Julie Horvath, PhD, Head of Genomics & Microbiology Research Lab (NC Museum of Natural Sciences) and Research Associate Professor, Biological and Biomedical Sciences (NC Central University);
  • Halina Krzystek, Bioinformaticist, Bioinformatics Data Services, Q-Squared Solutions; and
  • Janae Simons, Bioinformatics Software Developer (Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).

The meeting was attended by 34  people, of which 8 were undergraduate students, and three Community College instructors, two if which had expressed interest in knowing more about GEP and had been invited to New Member Trainings.

Zoom Meeting Room screenshot of participants

What worked well for your event that might help others plan similar events?

Using the opportunity that came with the “online” format we were able to host an outstanding keynote speaker (our very own Nate Mortimer from Illinois State University) and panel of experts in different fields of genomics for our “Careers in Genomics” panel; many were in North Carolina, but we had a person from Stanford. It would not have been possible to assemble this array of experts if it had been an in-person event. I would recommend some “professional development” event for students, like the “Careers in Genomics” panel that we had. We hosted individuals in different fields, with different education degrees (not all PhDs), and not all from academia. I believe the students really found this session interesting and useful. Making a program and emailing it to all participants was a plus and we also emailed certificates to the student presenters which is a nice touch of appreciation.

What lessons were learned from challenges in the planning or execution of the event that might be helpful to others?

It is hard to come up with the “perfect” date. We considered weekday vs. weekend, all day vs. half a day, mid semester vs. late in the semester. We finally settled on a Friday because they tend to be lighter days for students, and only half a day (morning). We did it towards the end of the semester, so students would have made enough progress in their projects to present. Considering that Node meetings will be in-person in the future, I would recommend a weekend, maybe start on Friday evening with posters and maybe the keynote speaker and then talks on Saturday morning and some professional development event. Some people may choose to attend only one day but they won’t be a full day. Or maybe make it a whole day event on Saturday. Keeping some form of hybrid might be useful, especially for the keynote speaker or panels, because that allows inviting speakers that are not geographically close to the Node. 
As far as the execution, it is still hard to keep everyone engaged and have them turn on their cameras and ask questions. So as much as possible, I would recommend holding the student presentations in-person and if online, encourage folks to have their cameras on, and incentivize asking question with some form of reward. We provided a short bio of the panelist in the program that was emailed to the registrants the night before. If possible, do that earlier, so people may think of some questions to ask ahead, and openly ask them to try to do so.

Some students reported not receiving a link for the meeting, but they registered only minutes before the start of the meeting. If you plan to leave the registration open till the very start of the meeting, make sure someone in the Node does a last sweep. Ask the GEP staff to give access to registration to someone in the Node.

Keep the GEP staff in the loop for everything planning, they are incredible resourceful, helpful and efficient!

Southeast Regional Node Meeting April 22, 2022

Southeast Regional Node Meeting April 22, 2022

Twelve undergraduate students shared their recent research annotating genes as part of the Pathways Project at the third semi-annual virtual Southeast Regional Node Meeting and research symposium on April 22, 2022. The event began with an engaging talk by Dr. Rebecca Varney, Postdoc at the University of California—Santa Barbara, on how gene annotation efforts can be especially helpful when working with non-model organisms.

How to crack a chiton: new challenges for gene annotation in non-model organisms Rebecca M. Varney University of California Santa Barabara Postdoc Twitter @RebeccaMVarney website:
New York & New Jersey Regional Node Meeting March 5, 2022

NY/NJ Regional Node Meeting – March 5, 2022

The New York and New Jersey (NY/NJ) Node held a virtual Regional Node Meeting (RNM) on March 5, 2022, in which seven GEP members were in attendance. Dr. Nate Mortimer provided an introductory seminar on the Parasitoid Wasps Project which was followed by a walkthrough of all the project materials. Members learned how to sign-up for an annotation project, how to find the Genome Browser, which Browser tracks were important for the annotation and what types of evidence the tracks contain. Most importantly, members learned how to annotate genes without a good gene model from a closely related species. Overall, attendees thought it was a great way to get excited to implement this new project and teaching genomics.

Colorado and New Mexico Node TA Training February 19, 2022

Colorado and New Mexico Node TA Training

The Colorado and New Mexico Node ran a one-day online training for nine graduate student teaching assistants on February 19, 2022. Multiple faculty members of the node—Judy Leatherman, Shan Hays, Farida Safadi-Chamberlain, Nick Stewart, and Zeynep Ozsoy—helped to lead this training, and several new Node members joined in to further their training on the Pathways Project.

What worked well for your event that might help others plan similar events?

Working through the annotation of a very small gene allowed us to go through all the steps rapidly, which allowed the facilitators time to demonstrate each step.

What lessons were learned from challenges in the planning or execution of the event that might be helpful to others?

Everyone is tired of online meetings, and this training is no exception. An in-person event would likely engage our TAs better.


Puerto Rico New Member Training January 2022

Please join us in welcoming the new members who recently completed the Puerto Rico Regional Node New Member Training (pictured left to right, top to bottom):

  • Dr. Abigail Ruiz-Rivera, University of Puerto Rico-Ponce
  • Dr. Alondra Díaz Lameiro, University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez
  • Dr. Ángel O. Custodio, University of Puerto Rico-Aguadilla
  • Dr. Belinda Román-Avilés, University of Puerto Rico-Cayey
  • Dr. Chad A. Lozada-Troche, University of Puerto Rico-Cayey
  • Dr. Darinel Ortiz, University of Puerto Rico-Bayamon
  • Dr. Edu B. Suárez Martínez, University of Puerto Rico-Ponce
  • Dr. Edwin E. Traverso Avilés, University of Puerto Rico-Humacao
  • Dr. Elsie Rivera-Ocasio, University of Puerto Rico-Bayamon
  • Dr. Liza V. Jiménez Rodríguez, University of Puerto Rico-Aguadilla
  • Dr. Miguel P. Méndez-González, University of Puerto Rico-Aguadilla

Special thanks to Drs. Juan Carlos Martinez Cruzado, Marisol Santisteban, Norma Velazquez-Ulloa, and Enrique Rodriguez Borrero for facilitating their online training!