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National DNA Day: Celebrating Genomics Through Awareness

March 1, 2016

Since 2003, NHGRI has celebrated 'National DNA Day' on April 25 to commemorate the successful completion of the Human Genome Project and the discovery of DNA's double-helical structure published on this date in 1953. This annual celebration offers students, teachers and the public many exciting opportunities to learn about the latest advances in genomics and to explore how those advances might affect their lives. National DNA Day is a favorite of mine, in part because it gives NHGRI staff the chance to engage with the community through a range of activities - from classroom events to web-based forums.

DNA Day logo

This year, NHGRI is expanding its National DNA Day programming in an effort to increase the celebration's national footprint. To this end, our Education and Community Involvement Branch and Communications and Public Liaison Branch, both within our Division of Policy, Communications, and Education, have teamed up and organized a network of events throughout the country. Key elements of these efforts have included revising and updating our National DNA Day webpages, developing a National DNA Day Starter Kit to assist organizations with their local event planning, expanding our inventory of resources available for teachers and utilizing social media to engage the public.

Our National DNA Day webpages include many new features. For example, we have added a map feature that highlights National DNA Day activities across the country. This will allow the public to find local events focused on STEM, genetics and genomics, and other relevant programs in these areas. Not only is this a tool for finding local events of interest, it also provides opportunities for organizations to partner and collaboratively host a National DNA Day event.

Button stills from the DNA Day page for events, Twitter chat, 'Ask Me Anything' series, Pinterest Challenge

As noted, for organizations planning an event, we have developed a National DNA Day Starter Kit, which includes materials and resources to help organize and execute a successful event. The kit includes background information about National DNA Day, a social media toolkit, example templates (such as PowerPoint slides, nametags and posters), as well as sample press releases and media advisories that can be tailored to fit the needs of the host organization. If you are planning an event, we would love to hear from you! And, if you would like your event featured on our website or for advice about holding an event, please contact dnaday@nih.gov.

For teachers and students interested in National DNA Day activities and resources, an extensive page of genetics and genomics educational resources is available on our website. In particular, the Get Activity Ideas page provides short explanations about each resource and is supported by a filter button for finding specific resources of interest (ranging from classroom activities, to videos, to interactive web modules). As we did in 2015, we will again hold The Genome: Unlocking Life's Code Pinterest Challenge, inviting teachers nationwide to work with their classrooms to arrange Pinterest boards that focus on the theme of emerging genomic technologies. Please pass this information on to your favorite teachers!

Silhouettes of people cheering

This year, we will be using numerous social media platforms to engage the public in the National DNA Day celebration. Our DNA Day Facebook page will feature upcoming events, articles and relevant links throughout the year. In the week leading up to April 25, the science community forum on reddit, /r/Science, will be moderating "Ask Me Anything" sessions for the public that feature prominent genomics researchers. Additionally, a Twitter Chat is planned for April 25 led by @DNADAY; for this event, we will be posing questions about genetics/genomics research and education, focusing on topics such as career paths, technology development and education. To join the conversation, go to Twitter and search the hashtag #DNADay16.

For our own local celebration on April 25, NHGRI will host our inaugural National DNA Day Lecture for NHGRI and NIH staff. Eric Spana, Ph.D., from Duke University, will speak about communicating science to students and the public in creative and relevant ways. This lecture will be videocast live on GenomeTV and will also be video-archived for later viewing.

I hope that you will join us in celebrating National DNA Day this year - either by participating in an event in your local area or even by hosting one of your own!

Posted: April 5, 2016

Last updated: April 05, 2016