Presenting: Your 2018 ASHG Board of Directors

Posted by: Staff

We are pleased to announce the results of this year’s American Society of Human Genetics Board of Directors elections. Thank you to all who voted! Members elected a new president-elect, three directors, one early-career director, and one trainee director.

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For details on the new Board members’ background, experience, and research interests, see the Election Bios. The new Board members will assume office on January 1, 2018, and will serve three-year terms.

A warm welcome to our new leaders!

Hurricane Harvey

Posted by: Mona Miller, ASHG Executive Director

As you have likely seen in the news, Hurricane Harvey has caused major flooding and difficult conditions in Houston and the surrounding cities. Our thoughts are with our members, colleagues, the broader scientific community in southeast Texas, and all affected – we hope you and your loved ones are safe.

You may know that The American Journal of Human Genetics editorial office is located in Houston. AJHG’s website notes that their staff is safe, but there might be delays in responding to editorial questions over the next week.

Given that the ASHG 2017 early registration deadline is today, we are providing an extension for those affected by the hurricane. Please email registration@ashg.org for details.

Our thoughts remain with everyone affected.

Revamped for 2017: ASHG/FASEB Mentored Travel Awards for Underrepresented Trainees

Posted by: Kanika Pulliam, PhD, ASHG Educational Programs Manager

This year, ASHG and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) are offering a newly structured travel award for underrepresented* trainees who are full-time undergraduate, graduate, medical students, and postdoctoral/clinical fellows who attend ASHG 2017.

Applications are due August 31, 2017 at 5:00 pm U.S. Eastern Time. Email questions and completed applications to marcssm@faseb.org.

What makes this travel award unique is its goal is to provide engaged and structured mentoring for trainees attending the meeting. This is fostered by assigning each awardee a peer mentor based on common interest.

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Networking and mentoring are important parts of the revamped ASHG/FASEB travel awards. (credit: ASHG)

The mentorship process starts before ASHG 2017 and continues during and after the meeting. Peer mentors will begin communicating with awardees before the meeting through a series of activities, including helping awardees choose events and sessions to attend and establishing their career interests to customize the meeting experience.

During the meeting, awardees will practice their presentations with their peer mentors and receive feedback. Peer mentors will also help awardees identify Exhibit Hall booths to visit based on their career interests, attend a social event together to practice networking, view poster and platform presentations to learn how to ask questions, and critique presentations. After the meeting, peer mentors will follow up with awardees by continuing to provide professional development support.

Peer mentors are selected based on their experience attending the meeting and their proximity in career development to the trainee awardee, which makes the relationship more relaxed. We have selected a diverse group of mentors spanning academia, industry, medicine, science education, and non-profits.

Awardees are required to attend specific trainee events and visit the Career Center to advance their networking skills and professional development. Here are the required events:

Wednesday, October 18

  • Diversity Breakfast, 7:15-8:45am

Choose 1 of the following concurrent sessions:

  • Trainee Professional Development Program (Academic Career Panel), 12:30-1:45pm, OR
  • Trainee-Mentor Luncheon (1), 12:30-1:45pm

Thursday, October 19

Choose 1 of the following concurrent sessions:

  • Trainee Professional Development Program (Passion Won’t Pay the Bills: Planning for a Successful Scientific Career), 12:30-1:45pm, OR
  • Trainee-Mentor Luncheon (2), 12:30-1:45pm

Friday, October 20

Choose 1 of the following concurrent sessions

  • Trainee Professional Development Program (Industry Career Panel), 1-2:15pm, OR
  • Mock NIH Study Section Workshop, 1-2:15pm

The travel award provides up to $1,850 in reimbursable funds for registration and travel. Applicants are required to submit and present (poster/oral) at ASHG 2017. Eligible applicants must be United States citizens or permanent residents with legal status. Trainees can be from minority institutions and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) or underrepresented trainees from majority institutions. Preference for the award is given to ASHG members.

* For the purpose of meeting the goals and objectives specified by the FASEB Diversity Resources Program, individuals from groups underrepresented in the biomedical, clinical, and behavioral sciences include: 

  • Individuals from racial and ethnic groups shown to be underrepresented in biomedical research, including Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians (who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment) or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and other U.S. Pacific Islanders (Guam, American Samoa);
  • Individuals with disabilities, defined as those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; and
  • Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds [usually undergraduate students], defined as those from a family with an annual income below established low-income thresholds and those who come from an educational environment that has inhibited the individual from obtaining the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to develop and participate in a research career.

Kanika Pulliam, PhD, is ASHG’s Educational Programs Manager. Learn more about ASHG’s programs for trainees, including programs at ASHG 2017.

Welcome to HHMI-ASHG Fellow Jennifer Hu

Posted by: Staff

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Jennifer Hu, HHMI-ASHG Medical Research Fellow (Courtesy Ms. Hu)

In partnership with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), we’re excited to welcome HHMI-ASHG Medical Research Fellow Jennifer Hu, BS, to a year-long position studying arteriovenous malformations. Jennifer, a medical student, is one of 79 HHMI Fellows who will begin their research experience this summer, at laboratories across the U.S.

“The Med Fellows Program allows exceptional MD, DVM, and DDS students to effectively shift course and conduct rigorous research at top institutions across the country…we hope that each student comes away further empowered to pursue a career as a physician-scientist,” said David Asai, senior director in science education at HHMI in a press release.

Jennifer, currently a third-year medical student at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, will be working with longtime ASHG member Matthew Warman, MD, at the Boston Children’s Hospital. Her project involves understanding how somatic mutations can drive the formation of vascular anomalies – in particular, arteriovenous malformations.

“The options for children currently affected by AVMs are limited and they often recur despite the best medical and surgical efforts,” Jennifer explained. “Using a mouse model, we aim to recapitulate somatic mutations that have been previously identified from patient tissues. Showing that this mutation can recreate the AVM in a mouse model will allow us to understand the development of the disease and have a new model in which to test existing or new therapies,” she said.

Long term, Jennifer plans to build upon this experience to become a physician-scientist. “In medicine, we often hear the phrase, ‘treat the patient, not the disease.’ Our ever-growing understanding of genetics makes disease personal. As a future physician-investigator, I want to partner with patients in research, not just do research with patients,” she said.

Launched 28 years ago, the HHMI Medical Research Fellows Program supports each Fellow through a year-long research project with a mentor of the Fellow’s choosing, and also facilitates peer networking among Fellows and alumni as well as seminars with senior investigators. For more information, see the Program website.

Congrats to the 2017 DNA Day Essay Contest Winners!

Posted by: Kanika Pulliam, PhD, and Evelyn Mantegani, BA, ASHG Education Department

Happy DNA Day! Every April 25, we commemorate the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and discovery of the double helix of DNA in 1953. ASHG marks this date each year by announcing the winners of our Annual DNA Day Essay Contest.

Open to high school students worldwide, the contest asks students to examine, question, and reflect on important concepts in genetics. This year’s theme was gene therapy. Students were asked to choose one modern example of gene therapy (since 2005), describe the disease or condition researchers are attempting to treat, and explain how the therapy or approach might repair the underlying cause of the disease or condition.

We received over 1100 essays from 38 U.S. states and 21 non-U.S. countries. Essays went through three rounds of scoring by ASHG members, who selected a first, second, and third place winner as well as 11 honorable mentions. ASHG will award monetary prizes to winning students as well as grants for genetics laboratory equipment to eligible teachers.

“This year’s essays continue the tradition of high-quality submissions…that we have seen for the past 12 years, and their enthusiasm for the science reflects the excitement that our members feel about their work,” said Joseph D. McInerney, MS, Executive Vice President of ASHG, in a press release.

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Adele Peng, a freshman at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, received first place for her essay on using zinc finger nucleases to immunize against HIV. Sophia Spiegel, a junior at Bergen County Academies in Hackensack, New Jersey, received second place for her essay on using recombinant adeno-associated virus vectors to treat Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis. And Alvin Ya, a senior at Poolesville High School in Poolesville, Maryland, received third place for his essay on potential uses of CRISPR to treat muscular dystrophy.

For a full list of winners and honorable mentions, teachers, and excerpts from winning essays, check out the DNA Day 2017 Winners. Through this contest and our other K-12 initiatives, we hope to encourage young people to explore genetics and inspire the next generation of ASHG members and leaders.

Kanika Pulliam, PhD, Educational Programs Manager at ASHG, and Evelyn Mantegani, BA, Educational Programs Assistant, organized the DNA Day Essay Contest for high school students. Learn more about ASHG’s efforts in K-12 education.

ASHG is Partnering with the March for Science

Posted by: Nancy Cox, PhD, ASHG President, and Joe McInerney, MS, ASHG Executive Vice President

20170413_March-supporter_logoWe’re happy to share that ASHG has signed on as an official partner to the March for Science, taking place April 22, 2017, in Washington, DC and at 425+ sister marches around the world. As genetics specialists and enthusiasts, we know firsthand how valuable science is to society – indeed, it may be what brought many of us to science in the first place. We look forward to celebrating the passion and dedication of scientists worldwide, and to recognizing the enormous support and respect people around the world have for the scientific endeavor.

Nancy Cox, PhD, ASHG President, directs the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute and is a Mary Phillips Edmonds Gray Professor of Genetics. She is also the Director of and a Professor of Medicine in the Vanderbilt Division of Genetic Medicine. Joe McInerney, MS, is the Executive Vice President of ASHG.