UNC celebrates North Carolina DNA Day

One hundred UNC graduate and post doctoral students will visit more than 150 high schools and 300 high school classrooms across the state today to present interactive, hands-on lessons about genetics and genomics.

The classroom visits are scheduled in celebration of North Carolina DNA Day. The celebration lasts through April to commemorate the discovery of the double helix in April 1953 and the completion of the Human Genome Project in April 2003.

“North Carolina DNA Day is a win-win program for everyone involved,” said UNC’s Patrick Brandt, director of science training and diversity. “Local high school students meet young scientists, which helps dispel outdated stereotypes about scientists. High school science teachers appreciate the visits from enthusiastic scientists who confirm that science really is cool and relevant to everyday life. And, the grad students and postdocs who visit the schools get valuable teaching experience and some time to bask in the well-deserved hero status conveyed by the high school students.”

In addition, the scientists discuss their own research interests with students and share exciting career opportunities in science and biotechnology. Since 2007, when UNC initiated North Carolina DNA Day, North Carolina scientists have taught DNA Day lessons to more than 40,000 students in the state.

North Carolina DNA Day is meant to:

  • Educate North Carolina students about cutting-edge facets of genetics, genomics and biotechnology that are relevant to their lives and to society;
  • Introduce students to a young scientist, which demystifies a career path that many students have not encountered or thought possible for themselves;
  • Support North Carolina science teachers and reinforce their lessons and North Carolina end-of-course standards;
  • Build relationships between major research entities and public school classrooms;
  • Nurture a desire for service and outreach in young scientist ambassadors that will continue throughout their careers.

Visiting scientists come from many North Carolina research institutions including: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, North Carolina Central University, Wake Forest University, Duke University, East Carolina University and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

NC DNA Day is made possible by grants from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and by significant support from the UNC School of Medicine. There is no cost to the schools, teachers, students or DNA Day ambassadors.

Published April 25, 2014.