Year: 
2021
Project Leader: 
Carlos Rodriguez Lopez and Paula Sumner
Department/Program: 
Horticulture
Funding Received: 
$983

The development of high-throughput technologies in the last two decades has ensured that bioinformatics will be an indispensable discipline for the modern practice of virtually every field in the life sciences. This has placed a scientific premium on the availability of skilled bioinformaticians, a qualification that is particularly scarce on the field of plant biology. This dearth of expertise is even more pronounced within traditionally underrepresented groups in STEM. According to the latest National Science Foundation report on population participation in science and engineering education, this imbalance is even more extreme in other underrepresented minority groups — blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos. What is more, the percentage of members of these groups receiving degrees in computer science has been declining since the late nineties. Kentucky’s Council of Postsecondary Education has identified diversity as an area for improvement in Postsecondary education. To improve diversity the Council has directed campuses to increase racial, economic, and ethnic diversity of students, putting special emphasis on providing better access to students from rural regions to postsecondary programs.

This project is centered around the creation of an annual workshop on Bioinformatics in Plant Molecular Biology Research for high school students from Kentucky. The workshop will be organized by Lopez (UK-Horticulture) and Paula Sumner (Lafayette High School). The workshop will be taught by UK faculty (Lopez), undergraduate and graduate students in CAFÉ, thus making a contribution to their career development plans. Special care has been taken to include instructors that can be role models for the underrepresented groups that the workshop is targeting.

The workshop will offer theoretical and hands-on experience to high school students for: 1) wet-lab techniques needed for Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) (DNA extraction, Nucleic Acid quantification and quality control, NGS library preparation) and an introduction to the use of bioinformatic tools for NGS results quality check and analysis.