A total of 87 participants (78 GEP faculty members, three staff, two Virtual TAs, and four collaborators) participated in the 2023 National GEP Faculty Workshop (formerly called Alumni Workshop) held at Washington University in St. Louis. This was the first time the Partnership was able to meet in-person for the annual event since 2019.
The national workshop allowed GEP members to gather to share their experiences teaching GEP materials, develop new curriculum, and work on potential scientific and education research publications including future funding avenues.
Throughout the Workshop, many folks continued to mention how different it was to be able to gather in person rather than virtually on Zoom. Initially it almost felt as if we were meeting each other for the first time rather than having worked closely for several years. Many folks were surprisingly taller or younger (we agreed that Zoom ages us).
Steering Committee Working Day
The Steering Committee arrived on June 5th to hold a working day packed with recaps from the prior academic year, the current status of GEP grants, Committee-specific planning sessions for final preparations of Working Groups, and opportunities for informal networking.
The official workshop kicked off on the evening of June 6 and ran through midday of June 9. Professor Jef D. Boeke from NYU Langone Health and Professor Erin Dolan from the University of Georgia provided keynote talks. There were four sessions of implementation lightning talks and three sessions of Working Groups.
Science Keynote - Transposable elements: part of the dark matter of the genome
Dr. Jef D. Boeke provided the scientific research keynote talk in which he shared his expertise on genome engineering and transposable elements. His keynote presentation on the Dark Matter Project (e.g., creating a humanized mouse model of ACE2 to study the pathology of COVID-19), and on the mutations induced by LINE-1 retrotransposons that drive human evolution (e.g., loss of the tail) were fascinating.
We also appreciated Dr. Boeke’s insights on the best way to incorporate transposons into the introductory biology curriculum. The Working Group K discussions provided members with several ideas on how students can use the Genome Browser to investigate transposons in the human genome — such as examining transposon insertions found in a subset of the human population, and investigating genes (e.g., Hox genes) that have low transposon density.
Lastly, Dr. Boeke shared his experiences (and the challenges) associated with his botanical expedition to the tropical Andes Mountains in the 1970s. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with him on the transposon curriculum, and to explore potential ways to incorporate genome engineering (e.g., “humanize” a section of the mouse genome) into the GEP curriculum.
Education Keynote - What Makes CUREs “Work?” Insights from experience sampling and instructor talk
Most of Dr. Dolan’s data hasn’t yet been published. We respect her wishes to avoid sharing any of it until she has a chance to publish pre-prints this coming academic year.
Extra Working Day
All GEP faculty members were welcome to stay for an extra Committee Working Day. The only requirement was willingness to contribute to the project for one of the Working Groups organized by the GEP Committees. The extra Committee Working Day ran midday June 9 through midday June 10.