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High School Workshop


Organized by the Information and Education Committee


As part of ASHG’s genetics education outreach, every year’s Annual Meeting includes a full-day workshop for local high school students and their teachers. Participants interact with genetics researchers and learn about the field of human genetics. Students enjoy inquiry-oriented  genetics lessons presented by distinguished speakers on a variety of topics including epigenetics, newborn screening, and DNA forensics.


This year’s workshop is on Tuesday, October 18 at the Vancouver Convention Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia from 8:15 am to 2:40 pm. The workshop is free and continental breakfast and lunch will be provided. However, we cannot provide transportation. As space is limited to 150 students and their teachers, we prefer each teacher bring nine students. Find descriptions of breakout session options below.




"I enjoyed all the hands-on activities and how they were integrated into the talks. Students were engaged, challenged & interested through all the problem-solving exercises."

- 2015 Teacher


"I pretty much [enjoyed] all the workshop [breakouts] because they were engaging and I [got] to learn some new things."

- 2015 Student


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The final 2015 workshop schedule can be found here.

Registration for the 2016 workshop will be open in July.



Breakout Session Descriptions


Complex Traits (Basic)


In school, we focus our attention on how a single gene can influence one trait, like tongue rolling, dimples, and widow’s peak.  However, the combined effects of many different genes cause most variation among individuals. Examples include height, weight, skin color, hair color, cholesterol levels, and intelligence.  Have you ever wondered how tall parents can have a short child? In this session, students will use pom-poms to investigate the effects of multiple genes on a single trait - in this case, height.

DNA Forensics (Basic)
Members of the same species are more genetically alike than different, yet only identical twins share exactly the same DNA sequence. Find out how forensic detectives tease out slight differences in DNA sequence to identify individuals. Students will discover the power and pitfalls of DNA identification analysis as they work to solve a “who dunnit” mystery, constructing and comparing DNA profiles to piece together crucial evidence that may – or may not – “make their case”.
Genetics and Sports: What can DNA tell us about athletic performance? (Basic)
What makes for a great athlete on the high school track team or in the NFL? Is there really “a speed gene"? Would you like to know if your DNA held any clues about which sports you might be best at? How do environmental factors fit into the puzzle? How is genetic information being used to screen athletes for medical conditions and injury risk? In this session, we will explore the emerging scientific and ethical questions behind using genetic analysis to probe a person's athletic potential as well as health issues related to concussions, sickle cell trait, and a heart condition that can be particularly dangerous for athletes.
Family History (Basic)

Did grandfather Joe have Alzheimer’s disease? If so, does that mean that I’m at risk of getting the disease too? In this session, students will explore the power of family history information. They will construct pedigrees, follow the inheritance of several different types of traits, and try to make predictions based on their evidence.


Epigenetics: The Interaction of Genes and Environment (Advanced)
Can the amount of licking that a rat mother provides her pups really affect their response to stress as adults? Surprisingly, yes, and the explanation isn’t in their genes (at least not how you might think!). Rat nurturing behavior isn’t the only example of this fascinating phenomenon. In this session, students will learn how environmental factors can affect gene expression, traits, and inheritance.
Newborn Screening (Advanced)  
Have you ever wondered how much physicians and geneticists can learn about us from the moment we are born? Newborns are routinely screened for a variety of dangerous and often preventable disorders that may be present at birth. Students will explore some of those traits, including the foods eaten by persons with certain metabolic disorders, and learn about the underlying genetics.
Basic - These sessions are appropriate for students at any level of genetics knowledge.

Advanced - These sessions assume more prior genetics knowledge by students.


Plenary Session Description


The Spirit of Difference

Speaker Rick Guidotti is a former high-fashion photographer who founded the not-for-profit organization Positive Exposure in 1998. Positive Exposure utilizes photography and video to transform public perceptions of people living with genetics, physical, and behavioral differences - from albinism to autism.


If you have any questions about the workshop, please email Brittany Wolf at


The American Society of Human Genetics, Incorporated

9650 Rockville Pike • Bethesda, Maryland 20814 • 1-866-HUM-GENE • (301) 634-7300

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