The 2021 Alumni Workshop of the Genomics Education Partnership was held June 12-13 and followed a week of one-hour Pre-Workshop events. Over 125 GEP faculty members took part in the online proceedings. GEP Program Director, Dr. Laura Reed, launched the Pre-Workshop events with a “State of the Union” address by outlining GEP’s accomplishments over the 2020/2021 academic year, including the addition of 75 new members (25% increase in membership and 27% increase in institutions). Laura also touched on how the GEP had successfully adapted to remote-learning challenges by establishing an online network of virtual TAs who provided invaluable assistance to GEP students and faculty alike. A highlight of the conference was hearing from lead TA Leon Laskowski regarding the overwhelmingly positive response to the virtual TA network. Equally effective were the ever-popular “implementation lightning talks” – fast-paced, succinct overviews of how faculty have incorporated the GEP curriculum over the past academic year.
The GEP was honored to have Drs. Christopher Miller and Ting Wang, both from Washington University School of Medicine, present illuminating professional development talks on genomics research. Dr. Miller described cutting-edge clinical approaches to treating cancer via personalized genomic medicine, while Dr. Wang presented a fascinating overview of transposable elements and epigenome evolution. Both talks engendered lively discussion among the faculty and were rated as a highlight of the conference.
In addition to learning about cutting-edge genomics research, faculty members were able to actively invest their own knowledge and experience into program projects by taking part in numerous Working Groups based on their areas of interest and expertise. The Working Group format truly allows faculty to engage in the inner workings of the partnership and creates ownership as members participate in collaborative discussions, outline practical next steps, and report back to the faculty body at large with actionable goals and deliverables.
After an extremely challenging year of navigating the challenges of online instruction, many GEP faculty wistfully reminisced about bygone days of reconnecting face-to-face and enjoying the camaraderie and networking that only in-person meetings can offer. However, as Dr. Reed reminded us, we look forward to “next year in St. Louis” and walk away from yet another online event with a renewed sense of resolve and commitment to our shared community.