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Biotechnology Educators Conference connects STEM instructors to emerging science

May 24, 2016

faculty-led workshop at Biotechnology Educators Conference

Professor Stephen Eubank speaks
Professor Stephen Eubank illustrates how computer simulations represent an entire city's population at the inaugural Biotechnology Educators Conference.

Founded to connect science teachers to the most cutting-edge methods in their fields, the second annual Biotechnology Educators Conference will be July 27-29 at Virginia Tech. The 2016 program is slated to provide 50 high school and 10 community college instructors with fully funded learning experiences. Online applications are being accepted through Wednesday, June 1.

The conference uses hands-on workshops to train educators in technology that simplifies scientific research and facilitates fun activities for teaching complex topics. This year’s event will begin with a Biotech Bootcamp for new instructors followed by a series of in-depth discussions with topics ranging from computer coding to simulated disease epidemics.

Launched in 2015 through a joint effort between the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech and Fralin Life Science Institute, the Biotechnology Educators Conference is already attracting repeat attendees.

“Looking back over the past 30 years of teaching, I realize it’s conferences like this that have broadened my understanding, expanded my circle of professional contacts, and cultivated a hunger for more, deeper learning,” said Myron Blosser, co-director of the Governor’s STEM Academy at Harrisonburg High School.

Making these career-shaping opportunities accessible to educators across the commonwealth is central to the conference’s mission — a cause that’s garnered support from a number of public agencies, including the Virginia Biotechnology Association.

“Thanks to a grant from the Virginia Department of Education and the National Institutes of Health’s Bridges to the Baccalaureat program, we are able to fully fund many educators’ participation in this conference,” said Kristy Collins, senior project associate for education and outreach at the Biocomplexity Institute. “The more educators we can connect to the advancements being made in the sciences, the more students can benefit from their excitement and get a full sense of the possibilities offered by STEM careers.”

To help attendees experience a diverse sampling of recent scientific innovations, the Biotechnology Educators Conference has partnered with biotechnology firms and Virginia Tech’s faculty to facilitate hands-on workshop sessions. Volunteers interested in coordinating one or more of these sessions can apply online by June 1.

“With the technology available to us at Virginia Tech, we can sequence an entire human genome — a task that used to require years and billions of dollars — in less than two weeks,” said Saikumar Karyala, a research scientist in the Biocomplexity Institute’s Genomics Research Laboratory and a presenter at this year’s conference. “It’s exciting to share these advancements and the larger learning opportunities they represent, with such a passionate group of educators.” 

More information on Biotechnology Educators Conference scheduling and registration can be found on the program’s website

Written by Dan Rosplock.

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