Developing Units to Train High School Teachers in Bioinformatics, Genomics and Systems Biology

Below is a proposed outline of the units which will comprise of video and accompanying presentation slides along with lab activities.

  • Unit 1: Introduction and overview of genomics and bioinformatics, including career paths and opportunities in the broader fields of biomedical informatics.
  • Unit 2: Fundamentals of molecular biology that provide the necessary biology foundation for the below units (Units 4-7).
  • Unit 3: Fundamentals of computational and systems biology that provide the foundation for the below units (Units 4-7)
  • Unit 4: Biological sequence comparison
  • Unit 5: Regulatory motif finding and their evolution
  • Unit 6: Genome sequencing and personalized medicine
  • Unit 7: Network visualization in systems biology
  • Lab 1: A 1-week long lab that leverages bioinformatics tools and applications (instead of software development) to solve an interesting bioinformatics problem.

Since units 1-3 would be basic and essential for all the students interested in bioinformatics they can be taught to biology, mathematics or advancement placement in biology or computer science students before taking the laboratory component on which it depends. The other lectures can me made optional depending on the school or teacher teaching it, in the respective school. For instance, for advanced placement biology students a teacher might prefer to use units 1-3 together with units 6, 7 and lab or just limit to units 1-3 and lab if the schedule doesn’t permit extensive integration while APCS (Advanced Placement Computer Science) looking for CS experience might prefer to use slightly different material from this list (such as units 1-3 together with units 4-6 and the lab because they are likely to have more available slots for integration). The reason would be motif finding and sequence comparison are historically more demanding computational problems while other more genomics-oriented material and visualization tools could be easily taught to biology students. Although the teacher can finally choose to include as many or as few units from this list by tailoring the lab with the PI’s help.

The outreach efforts to area schools will build on the Janga Lab’s experiences working high school teachers and their students here in central Indiana. We are also aware and have learned from the experiences of  others who have worked to introduce bioinformatics into the high school curriculum such as  reported by Form and Lewitter (2011) and Gallagher et al., (2011). The modular learning experience we design will be compatible with the limited experience most high school students have had applying math and computer science to biological problems. Initially, our work with schools will focus on developing models that will help teachers to use bioinformatics to teach the central concepts of biology that figure prominently in the major curriculum frameworks. Our aim is to raise the level of understanding of the field of bioinformatics by initiially helping teachers to use bioinformatics as an affordable teaching tool that will help teachers better achieve existing curricular goals rather than adding new ones. Using bioinformatics as a teaching tool to enhance student understanding of the existing curriculum in a school creates the opportunity to use the modules we develop at various times during the school year. By varying the gene and protein that are explored and visualized, the modules we develop could be used at different points in the year-long curriculum to give students a deeper experience and understanding of the topic. Early enzyme catalysis labs, later plasmid transfer labs or topics involving proteins and human physiology, almost any unit in the general biology curriculum involves genes and proteins that could be explored using  bioinformatics and protein visualization tools that would connect the topic in the unit to big ideas of diversity, adaptive fitness and evolution.


Form, D., & Lewitter, F. (2011). Ten simple rules for teaching bioinformatics at the high school level. PLoS Comput Biol, 7(10), e1002243-e1002243.
Gallagher, S. R., Coon, W., Donley, K., Scott, A., & Goldberg, D. S. (2011). A first attempt to bring computational biology into advanced high school biology classrooms. PLoS Comput Biol, 7(10), e1002244.

Presentation slides and corresponding video material will be made available as the academic year unfolds.