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Regional Node Event

Zoom meeting screenshot of six participants

DMV Regional Node Meeting – October 21, 2023

The D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) Regional Node held a faculty-focused professional development event on Oct 21, 2023. In this virtual workshop, faculty from our Node spent a half day having quality discussions about curriculum and pedagogy. Specifically, we walked through a curriculum developed by Dr. Rivka Glaser related to analysis of conserved domains. Portions of this curriculum were designed for intro level students, while others were designed for advanced students. This led to a conversation about course design for students at different levels. These active, hands-on discussions were capped off with a short planning discussion about things our Node would like to achieve in the coming year.

All participating Node members had a hand in planning the event, but special thanks goes to Dr. Rivka Glaser for sharing her curriculum, Dr. Christy Fleet for helping to refine our schedule and guiding questions for pedagogy discussion, Dr. Matt Wawersik as Node Leader and lead organizer for the workshop, and Sarah Crocker-Buta, Dr. Melinda Yang and Dr. Norma Velazquez for additional help with event planning. 

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

Node organizers began planning well ahead of time. This allowed discussion on what the faculty really wanted to talk about, and adaptation of the schedule so that the event could be pulled off. It also allowed for distribution of the workload. 

What would your Node do differently based on your experiences?

Not much differently for this event, even though it would have been nice to have more satellite Node members show up. This didn’t happen even after some individual contacts, and it made for a high quality and fun discussion with core members. For the future, regular events with a smaller/active group might feel repetitive if done without students, so alternating years with an in-person event with undergrads participating, and then faculty focused events the next year is a good plan. For faculty focused events, Node leaders might consider inviting another Node and have a multi-Node event to get insight from GEP members outside our Node.

GEP Regional Node Meeting Virtual

Pacific Northwest Regional Node Meeting – November 4, 2023

The Pacific Northwest (PNW) Regional Node had a successful virtual event on November 4th, organized by Dr. Norma Velazquez and Dr. Jack Vincent, Leader and Co-Leader of the PNW Node. Five current GEP faculty, 4 graduate students, and 10 undergraduates attended the event. We had 5 student talks on the F-Element and Pathways research projects. The talks were given by current undergraduates and recent graduates from Linfield University, Southern Oregon University, the University of Washington-Tacoma, and the University of the Fraser Valley, which is a great representation for the small Node that we are. 

The second part of the event was a graduate school panel, which started with an engaging introduction on graduate school myths by Dr. Nate Mortimer, from Oregon State University, followed by unstructured conversations between graduate students and undergraduate attendees. While the students talked, faculty moved to a breakout room to discuss implementation challenges and brainstorm solutions. We all reconvened in the main Zoom room at the end of the event to close the event and thank everyone for their participation.

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

The students gave great oral presentations and there were questions after each one. The presentations were bundled by research project topic (Pathways vs. F-Element), so there were similarities in the presentations according to topic. Yet, the several Pathway presentations all had their own focus on different aspects of the project, so they did not feel repetitive.

What would your Node do differently based on your experiences?

There needed to be at least 30 minutes more for the event. There ended up being  more student presentations than originally thought, which complicated the final scheduling. Getting a better idea about who will present before deciding the duration of the event would be helpful next time. The other way would be to cap the number of presentations, but it’s always great to have more students present and adjust the time as needed.

Two students present their work on the gene annotation of Myc gene in D. suzukii and D. bipectinata

Midwest North Regional Node Meeting – September 16-17, 2023

The Midwest North Regional Node held its third in-person meeting at Loyola University Chicago on September 16-17, 2023. This meeting included 16 GEP Midwest Node faculty, 8 undergraduate students, a prospective GEP faculty member, and two keynote speakers: Dr. Sara Lipshutz (Duke University) and Dr. Alondra Diaz Lamerio (University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez), who joined us virtually via Zoom.

The two day event included research talks from both the faculty and undergraduates, as well as panel discussions around curriculum and implementation.

The keynote presentation from Dr. Alondra Diaz Lamerio focused on the new Puerto Rican Parrot Project and was followed by a walkthrough of the related curriculum, led by Dr. Don Paetkau (Saint Mary’s College). The keynote presentation from Dr. Sara Lipshutz focused on the use of genomics to explore female aggression in birds. The meeting wrapped up with a planning session for future Midwest North Regional Node events.

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

There was a mix of events that included presentations, opportunities for talking about curriculum, and learning about new curricula (such as the Puerto Rican Parrot Project). This encouraged discussion over meals. It was also very helpful that Dr. Jennifer Mierisch’s (event organizer; Loyola University Chicago) department assisted with room reservations, which was made possible because students from the university were included in the event.

What would your Node do differently based on your experiences?

Recently, the Midwest North and Midwest South Regional Nodes were combined into a single Midwest Node, making the geographical area that the Node encompasses even larger. The Node leaders feel that it is good to continue having the meeting location move around the Node, as the Node covers a large geographical area, in an effort to promote more faculty participation over time. 

Group photo of student participants

DMV Regional Node Meeting – September 17-18, 2022

The GEP’s D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) Regional Node held its Fall 2022 Regional Node Meeting on Saturday, Sept 17th at the University of Richmond. A total of 30 engaged students and faculty participated, in our full day in-person event, from the following schools: Catholic University, Radford University, Community College of Baltimore County, Stevenson University, Emory & Henry College, William & Mary, and the University of Richmond. 
Faculty from three GEP projects were represented (i.e., F Element, Pathways, and Parasitoid Wasps), and undergraduate students had the opportunity to share results and lessons learned from their GEP annotation projects conducted through GEP Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs). Emily Oh, a student reconciler at Washington University in St. Louis, joined us to give a virtual talk about the “Next Steps in Gene Annotation.” There were afternoon sessions where students and faculty reviewed GEP curriculum, and then research talks by faculty. The event then retired to Bryan Park to bond over BBQ and lawn games. A Sunday morning hike at Belle Isle with faculty and friends helped further build the community; most of whom were meeting for the first time in person! This couldn’t have been done without a great group of motivated students and faculty brought together by the common cause of the GEP!!!

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

General organization was good, with a morning session that included student talks preceded by a short faculty intro of the different projects. After lunch, there was a working group to examine the curriculum, and then the event concluded with short faculty research talks about other work that might not be GEP related. The morning session worked particularly well. For this, 3 GEP projects were represented by faculty, so it was great to hear about them, and the student experiences. This session was capped off by a virtual talk about next steps in annotation from Emily Oh. She’s an undergrad who has worked on F-element reconciliation, and showed some specific data related to repeat elements. Ending with this talk provided a great perspective to understand what happens to submitted projects after they leave our hands.

What would your Node do differently based on your experiences?

The Node event organizers wouldn’t change a thing from the morning session, though not sure there should be such a student focused event every year. The afternoon sessions were a bit crunched for time, which caused the event to run behind and shorten breaks a bit more than was ideal. There also wasn’t much time as a faculty to meet and discuss curriculum as hoped. For the future, the Node Leader would like to expand time spent on a curriculum hack-a-thon by faculty. 

group photo at dinner of GEP members in attendance

MN/IA/Dakotas Regional Node Meeting – April 21, 2023

The Minnesota, Iowa, and Dakotas Regional Node held the GEP’s first, and largest, NIH-funded Regional Node Genomics Research Symposium in Saint Paul, MN, at Saint Catherine University, on April 21st, 2023. This was completely an in person event. The meeting was organized by Dr. Kellie Agrimson with support from Dr. Paula Croonquist and Dr. Andy Arsham.

The 80 attendees included 20 faculty, 1 postdoc, 1 postbac, 1 graduate student and 55 undergraduates from 10 institutions (Anoka Ramsey Community College, Bemidji State University, Crown College, Macalester College, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Normandale Community College, North Hennepin Community College, Saint Catherine University, University of Minnesota, and Wartburg College).

The Genomics Research Symposium Included:

Adapting GEP Tools to Study Gene Family Evolution Across Insecta” guest speaker: Dr. Andy Arsham, Assistant Professor of Biology, Bemidji State University

Student Workshop - Research Experience Search

Genomics of a Partnership: Exploring the Lichen Symbiosis” guest speaker: Dr. Tami McDonald, Associate Professor of Biology, Saint Catherine University

Searching for a Genetic Basis to Feeding & Sleeping Behaviors in Cavefish” guest speaker: Dr. Emilie Richards, NIH IRACDA Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Minnesota

Student Poster Presentations

Computational Techniques and Tools to Improve Genetic Testing in the Clinic” guest speaker: Dr. Getiria Onsongo, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Macalester College

Student Workshop – CV Design

Transcriptional Regulation by the Polycomb Repressive Complex 1.1 in Placental Development” guest speaker: Dr. Micah Gearhart, Research Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota

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

Having short (20-30 min) research talks throughout the day seemed to be a highlight.

Student presenting on Divergence of Species in the Insulin/TOR Pathway

TX/OK Regional Node Meeting – July 21, 2023

The Texas and Oklahoma Regional Node held their first in-person Regional Node Meeting at the University of Texas at Austin on July 21, 2023. The meeting was organized by several Node members, including Node Leader Dr. Lindsey Long (Oklahoma Christian University). Attendees included 8 GEP faculty and 9 GEP students. Seven Universities/Colleges across Texas and Oklahoma were represented at the meeting including: University of Houston-Clear Lake, East Central University, Texas Wesleyan University, University of Texas San Antonio, St. Mary’s University, Oklahoma Christian University, and University of Texas at Austin. 

The morning session included training on the GEP R curriculum by Dr. Nolan Bentley (University of Texas at Austin) and research lightning talks by the GEP students. Additionally, Dr. Tom Juenger from UT Austin talked to the group about his research and how he uses it as a CURE project for several undergraduate students. While the students visited the Wonderspaces immersive and interactive art museum together in the afternoon, the faculty continued the meeting which included updates about the Parasitoid Wasps wet lab project and the National GEP meeting. Several faculty also gave implementation talks where there was valuable sharing of ideas and feedback. Finally, the group ate supper together at True Food Kitchen in downtown Austin before returning home.

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

The registration process was very smooth and the involvement with the students was great. They were included for the professional development portion, the guest speaker, and they gave lightning talks about their research. In the afternoon, they went as a group to the museum which helped with the community building aspect. The events program came together well.

What would your Node do differently based on your experiences?

Book a cheaper hotel slightly further from the meeting location and use a ride share service to transport the participants to the meeting site.

GEP Regional Node Meeting Virtual

Rocky Mountain Regional Node Meeting – February 25, 2023

The Rocky Mountain Regional Node held its Spring 2023 Regional Node Meeting virtually on February 25, 2023. This meeting was attended by six current GEP faculty and three prospective members. Two of the prospective members, Dr. Laura De Lorenzo (The University of New Mexico) and Dr. Narayan Kandel (University of the Southwest), are full members of the GEP as of June 30, 2023. 

During this Regional Node Meeting, Node members discussed the upcoming National GEP Faculty Workshop that is being held in St. Louis, MO on June 6-9, 2023. The Node Directors have asked the leaders of each Node to give a short speech at the reception on June 6th. Node members also discussed changes in Node responsibilities and who will be the co-leader of the Node moving forward. A potential Node training event was also discussed. 

Dr. Dan Bean, Director of the Biological Pest Control Program for the Colorado Department of Agriculture, then gave a talk about photoperiodism and diapause in the tamarisk beetle with a focus on the impacts these have had on its success when introduced in the American Southwest to control tamarisk along the Colorado River and its tributaries. The Colorado Department of Agriculture has a facility in both Western Colorado and the Western Slope in Palisade. Both facilities started out servicing peach farmers many years ago, but now the Colorado Department of Agriculture services many types of produce in the industry.

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

Everyone was flexible and willing to work together to see it happen.

What would your Node do differently based on your experiences?

Organizers are going to plan the next meeting much earlier so there is a longer lead time to get a speaker.

Group photo of professional development meeting participants

Midwest North Regional Node Meeting – September 17-18, 2022

The Midwest North Regional Node held its second in-person meeting at the University of Detroit-Mercy on September 17-18, 2022. The University of Detroit-Mercy provided the meeting space for free, as well as free IT support and the use of a 15 passenger van at no cost. This meeting included Node faculty, undergraduates, and keynote speaker Dr. Chris Shaffer (Washington University in St. Louis). At the two day event, the following were discussed: 

1) A state of the Node report from Node leader Dr. Jackie Wittke-Thompson (University of St. Francis), 
2) Research talks from undergraduate GEP researchers, 
3) Panel discussions on GEP implementation from both seasoned and newer implementers, 
4) Keynote presentation from Dr. Chris Shaffer
5) Undergraduate student discussion from GEP alumni presented via Zoom, 
6) Discussion of future Node events, including potential recruitment from community colleges, an online presentation, etc

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

The use of the Detroit-Mercy Campus, having undergraduates present data from the different GEP projects, and splitting faculty into seasoned and new faculty for group discussions on implementation worked really well for this event.

What would your Node do differently based on your experiences?

The Node leader suggests hosting meetings at other locations in the Node besides the University of Detroit-Mercy. The low cost makes Detroit-Mercy a good location, but it’s possible that some members that live further away from Detroit are unable to take part in the Node activities. This was part of the discussion at the September 2022 meeting. 

Since this meeting, the Midwest North and South Regional Nodes have been combined into a single Midwest Regional Node. This will result in additional locations that can be used to host Regional Node meetings. 

GEP Regional Node Meeting Virtual

NY/NJ Regional Node Meeting – April 25, 2023

The New York & New Jersey Regional Node held its Spring 2023 professional development meeting virtually with six GEP members and three undergraduate students in attendance. The meeting began with brief introductions followed by three undergraduate student presentations. Alexis Lemberikman (Baruch College) gave a presentation on her work on the Pathways Project (under the mentorship of Dr. Krista Dobi) and two students from Hofstra University (Angad Dev and Margaret Peck) gave presentations on their projects on the Parasitoid Wasps Project (under the mentorship of Dr. Brittany Miller).

Afterwards, students went to a breakout room to meet with each other while the faculty presented short implementation talks. Dr. Brittany Miller gave a short presentation on her experiences implementing the Parasitoid Wasps Project in her bioinformatics class and Dr. Rebecca Spokony talked about how she has used the Understanding Eukaryotic Genes Modules in her developmental biology class. The meeting ended with a discussion of possible Regional Node Events for next academic year. This one and a half hour meeting was an excellent opportunity for members to learn from each other and support the accomplishments of our amazing students.  

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

A survey was sent to the Node well in advance of the event to find out which general dates and times worked for them as well as ask if there were any faculty who wanted to give a short talk or had students who might be interested. This enabled the event organizer to focus on a date and time that worked best for the speakers and members of the Node.

What would your Node do differently based on your experiences?

Organizers discussed offering talks that were not about projects that have already been implemented, but instead about projects that the faculty plan to implement so the rest of the group could give feedback prior to the implementation. This is the plan for next time!

tamarisk beetle - about 3/8 inch (9 mm) long, They are mostly yellowish brown or green with brown to dark green longitudinal stripes on the wing covers.

Rocky Mountain Regional Node Meeting – November 12, 2022

The Rocky Mountain Regional Node met virtually, to accommodate its distant members, on November 12, 2022. Dr. Amanda Stahlke gave a riveting talk about the tamarisk beetle species that have been introduced to the western United States as a biocontrol measure against the invasive tamarisk plant, which is threatening our dwindling water supply. She is investigating the genetic underpinning of the success different species have had in different geographical locations. Her research includes the annotation of genes from the species’ recently completed genomes that might be related to the species’ success.

Dr. Stahlke is moving forward with plans to use GEP tools to implement such annotation into a course she is co-teaching with Node member Dr. Zeynep Ozsoy. They are interested in developing this research project as a regular GEP science project that can be implemented by other GEP members in the future. The Node members were very supportive of this idea and discussed ways that we might be able to help them move forward.

GEP member Dr. Shan Hays presented his implementation of TSS annotation and members discussed ways they could add TSS annotation to their courses as well.

Finally, the Node name you now see was adopted and the newly inaugurated “Rocky Mountain Regional Node” discussed plans to meet virtually again in the spring. Overall, it was a great opportunity for the group to connect and talk about science and GEP!

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

The event was pre-planned and the Node, as a group, decided to focus on the major outcomes that were expected from it.

What would your Node do differently based on your experiences?

Event organizers needed to stay on top of communications, especially since it was nearing the end of the semester and everyone was busy.