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Summer SAVY 2017, Session 2/Day 2- Genetic Epidemiology (Rising 6th/7th)

Posted by on Tuesday, June 20, 2017 in SAVY.

I just have to start off by saying how impressed I am with your students. I’m sure I’ll say it many more times before this weeks is over, but they truly amaze me. Yesterday may have been a review day, but today we jumped straight into the deep end. It was hard! But boy do your students thrive with a challenge!

Today we learned about some statistical methods in genetics. We spent the majority of the day in the computer lab learning a little about statistical programming and working our way around a command line. It was a completely new topic for pretty much everyone in the class, but we worked our way through it. Using real genetics data, we performed a genetic association study on two SNPs to determine their role in lung cancer risk. We specifically focused on the how (applying statistical code to run the analysis) and the interpretation (what does all this gibberish on my screen mean?!?!). We were then able to apply this knowledge to a dataset of more than 200,000 SNPs and perform a genome-wide association study! (At which point we thanked those insanely talented individuals who came before us and developed tools to make such daunting tasks so much quicker and easier!) We are currently working through plotting this data in a way that will help us more easily interpret so much information! Hopefully, we will be able to show you these plots when you visit for open house.

This afternoon we also had the opportunity to visit the VANTAGE facility here at the Vanderbilt Medical Center. VANTAGE is a core responsible for extracting and storing DNA from samples, as well as genotyping (the process by which the genotypes at a single SNP are read) and sequencing (the process by which the order of bases in a region is read) DNA for research purposes. We were able to see many of the robots that are used in these processes action! We even got to see the inside of the robot freezer were hundreds of thousands of DNA samples are stored! (The geneticist in me was SUPER excited! But I think the kids enjoyed it too!)

Today definitely challenged us, but I am so, so incredibly impressed by how well your students are doing! They are on their way to becoming genetics rock stars!

Dr. Jones