Bellaire AP Biology students of Anna Loonam invite the community to attend Bellaire High School Genetics Night, the culmination of a month-long medical genetics research project. Bellaire High School Genetics Night will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Feb. 5 in the school library, 5100 Maple, and includes presentations and displays on the many different human genetics disorders that the students researched.
The event is hosted by Dr. Fernando Scaglia of the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine. Scaglia and Loonam have been collaborating to enhance the teaching of genetics to high school students through the GENA Project, the Geneticist-Educator Network of Alliances, which partners scientists with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics high school teachers.
To prepare their research for Genetics Night, the students were introduced to the human face of genetic disorders through Cassandra Harner, a three-year-old toddler who has been diagnosed with PKU, a genetic disorder affecting 1 in 10,000 babies in which the body is unable to process certain proteins. Cassandra’s mother, Deanna Harner, spoke in front of around 150 students to explain the impact of this genetic disorder on Cassandra and the real effect it has had on the family finances and daily routines. The students also met with a nurse and a dietician who let the students taste formula and protein bars made for PKU patients, so they would have first-hand experience in stringent dietary requirements a PKU patient must endure.
Working closely with the scientific community, Loonam has been able to raise the awareness and understanding of genetic disorders to a new level with her students. Genetics Night will be a demonstration of their understanding and will shed light on many little-understood genetic conditions.