Students will learn the “magic” behind genomics at annual event

UB to host Genome Day at the new Jacobs School building downtown, with a keynote on “Wizard Genetics of Harry Potter” by Duke University’s Eric Spana

Release Date: March 6, 2018

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Four hundred 8th-graders from Buffalo Public Schools will visit the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo downtown on Thursday, March 8 for Genome Day, a hands-on event where the middle schoolers will extract their own DNA with guidance from over 50 UB students, faculty and staff.  

Buses will arrive at 9:45 a.m. at the Jacobs School building at the corner of Main and High streets.

The students will begin the morning by extracting their DNA, which they will take home in a necklace.

If time permits, students may also participate in activities that include completing a karyotyping task to identify a disease by observing chromosomal differences; constructing a take-home origami model that promotes understanding of DNA structure; and identifying genetic mutations by interpreting sequences from healthy and tumor cells.

The 4th annual event will culminate with a keynote at 10:45 a.m. on the “Wizard Genetics of Harry Potter” by Eric Spana, PhD, a biology professor at Duke University specializing in genetics and molecular biology.

He is known nationally for engaging youth in science by using real biological mechanisms to provide hypothetical explanations for the unusual and fantastic occurrences in science fiction and fantasy, such as how a wizard in the Harry Potter world might be born to nonmagical parents.

Watch one of Spana’s past presentations:

News media are encouraged to attend any part of Genome Day. Spana will be available for interviews after the keynote concludes at noon.

Media arrangements: Contact Julianna Fortain, marketing and special events coordinator with UB’s Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships team, at or 716-881-7586. Fortain will be in the medical school lobby at Main and High streets starting at 9:30 a.m.

Sandra K. Small, PhD, science education manager at UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences (CBLS) and lead event organizer, said, “Genome Day is an excellent opportunity to show the community how CBLS and the Jacobs School building engage and inspire the next generation of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) professionals.”

Genome Day is led by CBLS in partnership with the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB; UB’s Genome, the Environment and the Microbiome (GEM) Community of Excellence; the City of Buffalo; and Buffalo Public Schools.

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