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Genomics at SXSW

NHGRI has organized three sessions that will showcase exciting genomics research and advancements for the South By Southwest 2021 conference.

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As long as humans have been on this planet, we’ve tried to answer the question: “Who are we?” But the answer to our identity always seems to shift. Today, race is often used as an identifier. But race is a fluid concept, that has changed over time, used to group people according to various factors. Though these visible traits are influenced by genes, the vast majority of genetic variation exists within racial groups and not between them. Genomics is helping us understand the complex and intertwined relationships between a person's ancestry, ethnicity, and racial identity. So, we ask, is there a world in which we don’t use race to describe ourselves? Do we look at ethnicity as the main identifier? Or are there genomic factors that can be used as identity markers?

Panelists: Vence Bonham, Sara Hull, Christina Daulton

SXSW - what box


Genomics has become such commonplace that we don’t realize how it has completely integrated into parts of our lives. Genetic cancer screenings, tried and true forensic techniques, DTC ancestry sleuthing, and COVID-19 tracking: all ways genomics have become common place. So, if genomics is so mainstream, what genomic discoveries are left? The genomic tech innovation around the corner is so crazy to imagine, it’s almost science fiction! Our panel will break down some of the most innovative technology currently being worked on in genomics including large-scale genetic sequencing, gene editing, artificial intelligence, disease risk tests, and virtual reality. We’ll look at not only how this technology is being developed but how these breakthroughs could change the face of healthcare.

Panelists: Susan Persky, Ben Solomon, Mike Pazin

SXSW Forefront of tech


As our world continues to digitize, we have created measures to protect our cyber privacy and data. We know to delete phishing emails, we create difficult passwords, we condemn companies where there are data breaches, and we know to be weary of how we share private and financial information online. But are we taking those same precautions when it comes to science and our own healthcare?

Panelists: Larry Brody, Elena Ghanaim, Benjamin Berkman

SXSW Protect DNA

Genomics at SXSW 2020

SXSW 2020 was cancelled due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.  As a result, NHGRI held its two panel sessions virtually and made the recorded video of both events available on YouTube.  

Why am I Irish yesterday and Italian today?
May 13, 2020
3:00 - 4:00 p.m. EST

Humans are drawn to learn about where we come from. From stories passed down through generations to taking genetic ancestry tests, we are compelled to know more about our ancestors. To that end, millions of curious people have taken a “direct-to-consumer” genetic test to learn about their genetic ancestry. Customers have been surprised, vindicated, delighted, enraged, and everything in between by their results. Interestingly, many are beginning to realize that the results change over time as they go back to look at them. What is the reason for this phenomenon and what does it mean for our identities? What does a genetic ancestry test tell us about ourselves and how does it shape our identity?

Panelists: Vence Bonham, Wendy Roth and Alice Popejoy

Creating a Space for Genomics in All Classrooms
May 4, 2020
3:00 - 4:00 p.m. EST

Learning about the science and ethics of genomics (just a fancy word for all your DNA) in the classroom has taken off.  Working with science, history, and social studies educators from middle school, high school, community colleges, and Tribal Colleges, we creatively bring cutting-edge genomic science to students across the nation and create spaces for difficult classroom conversations about privacy, racism, ethics, and identity.

Panelists: Belen Hurle, Tada Vargas, Christina Daulton and Christopher Williams

What is SXSW®?

SXSW® is the premier destination for discovery and creativity. This interactive conference is the place to preview future technologies of tomorrow and learn about the new advances and approaches being applied to improve outcomes in the communities where we live, work, and play.

The SXSW EDU® Conference cultivates and empowers a community of engaged stakeholders to advance teaching and learning.

Last updated: November 30, 2020