UNC earns award for innovative NC DNA Day

The American Association of Medical Colleges selected the UNC School of Medicine’s Office of Graduate Education as a winner of a $2,500 Building Bridges and Spanning Boundaries Award: Innovations in Research and Education.

UNC earns award for innovative NC DNA Day click to enlarge Josh Hall, PhD
UNC earns award for innovative NC DNA Day click to enlarge Patrick Brandt, PhD

The money will support the office’s annual NC DNA Day initiative, a state-wide collaboration between North Carolina’s leading research universities and hundreds of public high school teachers. Each year, more than one hundred graduate students and postdoctoral fellows conduct interactive lessons about genetics, genomics, and biotechnology to more than 8,000 high school students across the state.

The lessons include information about grad-level and postdoc research projects and career opportunities in science.

NC DNA Day also helps support North Carolina science teachers and reinforces their lessons, it builds relationships between major state research entities and public school classrooms, and nurtures a desire for service and outreach in aspiring scientists.

NC DNA Day is run by graduate students and a small outreach team, including Patrick Brandt, PhD, director of science, training, and diversity; and Joshua Hall, PhD, director of UNC PREP. Both are in the Office of Graduate Education.

“NC DNA Day provides an opportunity for thousands of high school students to meet a scientist, often for the first time,” Hall said. “This can dispel stereotypes students have about who can be a scientist and what a scientist can look like. We’re a fun and diverse bunch.”

This highly replicable project, which has an average annual budget of $5,000, has reached nearly 60,000 high school students over the past eight years.

The goal of the AAMC award is to support collaborations between research institutions and the community at large. UNC was one of six recipients from a pool of 48 entries.

The 2015 NC DNA Day is scheduled for April 23.

Read more about the 2014 NC DNA Day 5k Race and Science Festival and a feature story about the UNC science ambassadors visiting North Carolina high school students.

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