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ASHG and NHGRI Award First Genetics and Education Fellowship

The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health, have named Elizabeth P. Tuck (image), M.A., Upper School Science Teacher at The Wellington School in Columbus, Ohio, the first ASHG/NHGRI Genetics and Education Fellow. The 16-month appointment begins today, September 2, 2014. The Genetics and Education Fellowship is intended to help early-career genetics professionals expand their skills, experience, and network to prepare for a career in genetics education. Fellows in the program will complete rotations at both sponsoring organizations in areas that may include curriculum development, education research, faculty professional development, public education and outreach, and science education policy. Ms. Tuck has served in various roles related to science education since 2008, including teaching high school biology, developing biotechnology and neuroscience curricula for underserved youth, and organizing science café events for teenagers. She has also conducted laboratory research at the undergraduate and graduate levels, focusing on the genetics and cellular mechanisms underlying neurological diseases. “With her background in both laboratory genetics research and science education, Ms. Tuck is exceptionally well-qualified to take advantage of the opportunities this fellowship provides,” said Michael J. Dougherty, Ph.D., the ASHG’s Director of Education. “We are excited to launch this new program with a fellow who has worked in varied settings and who can effectively combine diverse perspectives to identify and address challenges in genetics education.” The ASHG/NHGRI Genetics and Education Fellowship is modeled after the ASHG/NHGRI Genetics and Public Policy Fellowship, which ASHG and NHGRI have jointly sponsored since 2002. “NHGRI is pleased with the implementation of the new fellowship program. Ms. Tuck will be our first fellow and we could not be more delighted. We anticipate her helping to make the education fellowship program as successful as the long-standing ASHG-NHGRI policy fellowship program,” said Vence L. Bonham, Jr., J.D., Chief of the Education and Community Involvement Branch at NHGRI. “The Genetics and Public Policy Fellowship has been successful in helping to train genetics professionals who currently occupy significant positions in policy and advocacy organizations and in government. We hope the new program has a similar impact,” added Joseph D. McInerney, M.A., M.S., Executive Vice President of ASHG. Ms. Tuck didn't care much for science growing up. But learning how the X-chromosome affects the color patterns of calico cats during an undergraduate class at Hanover College in Indiana opened her eyes to the world of genetics. "Understanding the mechanisms of how it works was fascinating to me as a young learner," she said. "I knew I needed to find a way to communicate that to others." She will explore how to do that as the first fellow in the new Genetics and Education Fellowship. At ASHG, Ms. Tuck will participate in educational research and program development for a variety of audiences. In early 2015, she will rotate to the NHGRI's Education and Community Involvement Branch (ECIB), within the Division of Policy, Communications and Education (DPCE), and participate in the branch's activities. Later in 2015, she will complete the fellowship with a rotation in an organization, of her choice, that is dedicated to science education. "This is a great opportunity for her to establish herself in the field of genetic and genomics education," Chief Bonham said. "Because we continually engage communities nationwide, we're in a position to help her do that, and it's our responsibility to do so." Ms. Tuck has a master's degree in molecular cell biology from Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL). While in graduate school, her research focused on using exome sequencing, and other techniques, to understand the molecular mechanisms of various neurological diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. At WUSTL, she was a laboratory teaching assistant and mentored undergraduate and graduate students. She also taught extracurricular biology classes for underserved youth at the Saint Louis Science Center. Most recently, Ms. Tuck taught high school biology and genetics at The Wellington School. "Being a teacher allowed me to approach teaching students in a new way because I could see how my students were growing from the beginning of the year to the end of the year," she said. Though she enjoyed those experiences, she dreams of having a career in which she can impact students on a larger scale. "As a teacher, you can only reach 30 students at a time," Ms. Tuck said. "I want to go beyond the scope of my classroom walls, and this fellowship is an opportunity to do so." This report is based on press releases from the ASHG and the NHGRI. The image is courtesy of Ms. Tuck. [ASHG press release] [NHGRI press release]