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National DNA Day: Improving genomic literacy on a national scale

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) will mark its fourteenth annual National DNA Day by organizing a nationwide network of educational events for students, teachers and health professionals.

A Nationwide Network

Celebrated on April 25th every year, National DNA Day aims to educate people about important scientific advances in genomics and how those advances may impact their lives.

"Our goal for National DNA Day is to educate everyday people on the importance of genomics so they can make more informed decisions about their health care and even potential careers," said Carla Easter, Ph.D., Education and Community Involvement Branch (ECIB) chief at NHGRI.

National DNA Day commemorates the successful completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the discovery of DNA's double helix in 1953. NHGRI, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), began celebrating this day annually on April 25th, 2003, after the 108th Congress passed concurrent resolutions designating it as "National DNA Day."

Dr. Easter also hopes the power of partnership will be a more effective way to reach people than in previous years. In addition to NHGRI hosting its own events - a Twitter chat with genomics professionals and a talk on "Harry Potter" genomics - NHGRI is championing genomic literacy by partnering with museums, schools and institutions around the country. Through these collaborations, NHGRI is providing a variety of resources so these organizations can start their own DNA Day events or connect with opportunities in their area.

The revamped National DNA Day website offers an interactive map of events taking place across the country, a list of genomics-related educational activities and an Event Starter Kit for those interested in launching a new event.

"The national map of events is a great visualization of DNA Day's reach throughout the country," said American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) and NHGRI Education Fellow Julie Nadel, Ph.D. "In its first year [of providing the map], NHGRI hopes to have at least one National DNA Day event in every state."

NHGRI has confirmed over 70 National DNA Day events, such as Nanooks and Nanopores! at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and DN-Yay's Science Under the Stars at the University of Texas, which will offer guided tours of field labs, demonstrate sequencing experiments and provide activities for children.

The DNA Day Event Starter Kit provides free resources to help anyone launch a DNA Day campaign in their community. The kit includes National DNA Day logos, PowerPoint slides, name tags, sample press releases and other communications materials.

"With all the resources and activities NHGRI has to offer, I hope we can inspire people to spend at least one day out of the year educating themselves on genomics," said Rosann Wise, M.A., ECIB program analyst.

Here are NHGRI's National DNA Day activities:
  • April 18: NHGRI will host an "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) series in collaboration with ASHG and the Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd). This AMA series will feature different experts from various institutions and universities answering questions on genomics and genetics in the reddit science community forum "/r/Science."
  • April 25: NHGRI will host a National DNA Day Twitter Chat. This moderated discussion will focus on genomics/genetics topics related to career paths, technology development and education.
  • April 25: NHGRI will host Eric Spana, Ph.D., from Duke University, at the inaugural National DNA Day Lecture for NHGRI staff and the public. The topic of Dr. Spana's lecture is transmission genetics as seen through the lens of Harry Potter and the genetics of wizardry.
  • April 29: The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, in collaboration with NHGRI, will host a HOT (Human Origins Today) Topic for National DNA Day. This year's speaker is NHGRI's own senior investigator in the Genetic Disease Research Branch, William J. Pavan, Ph.D. His discussion is titled "Genes and Animal Coloration: It's Not All Black and White." This free public forum will take place Friday, April 29th from 4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m., in the One Species Worldwide Theater, Hall of Human Origins.

Visit the Celebrate with NHGRI page for details regarding these events and more.

Last updated: March 21, 2015