Personal Genetics Education Project

Selected recent events

The Future of Gene Editing, Science and Education Policy Association, Rockefeller University, New York City, NY, January 26, 2017 (invited panelist)

Marnie participated in a multi-disciplinary panel discussion on CRISPR with Jamie Metzl (Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council), Roberto Barbero (Former Assistant Director on Biological Innovation, White House Office of Science & Technology Policy), and Matthew Liao (Director, Center for Bioethics, New York University). The discussion looked 5, 10, and 20 years into the future, considering potential applications of CRISPR, policy questions, long-term societal implications, and the importance of engaging the public. The audience was a lively mix of individuals from New York’s academic, industry, and policy communities with seemingly endless questions and comments.

NHIT Collaborative for the Underserved Annual Collaborative Conference, Oxon Hill, MD, December 14, 2016 (invited panelist)

Johnny represented pgEd at the third annual conference of the National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved (NHIT), “The Perfect Storm: Genomics, Precision Medicine, and Health IT Innovation – Opportunities in Underserved Communities.” The conference convened leaders in science, ethics, business, law, medicine and policy to explore the opportunities that may be created by advances in precision medicine and genomics to address health disparity, community empowerment and economic development in underserved communities. Johnny spoke on the panel “ELSI and the Business of Genomics.”

Professional development on Genetics and Social Justice, Boston, MA, December 7, 2016 (organizer)

Lauren organized a one-day professional development workshop which drew seven teachers from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. Sessions explored the emerging field of personal genetics, advances in reproductive technology, the history of the American Eugenics Movement, and strategies for handling sensitive topics in the classroom.

Visit to the Boston Latin Academy, Boston, MA, December 2, 2016 (guest observer)

Fabienne Mondesir, the newest member of pgEd’s Teacher Advisory Council, kindly permitted Lauren and Ting to spend the day observing classes at this Boston public high school. They watched Fabienne lead her students through laboratory demonstrations of the relationship between solutes and solvents. They also joined a class led by Mr. Matheiu on the sociology of race and racism.

Cambridge Roundtable on the Intersection of Science and Theology, Cambridge, MA, December 1, 2016 (invited presenter)

Ting led a discussion with the Cambridge Roundtable, which has been meeting regularly this year to tackle “How science and theology work together to address the ethics of human genetic engineering.” This roundtable assembled expertise in theology, history, governance, stem cell biology, physics, law, music, and genetics.

Visit to Brockton High School, Brockton, MA, November 30, 2016 (guest speaker)

Marnie met with students and teachers at our partner school in Brockton, where pgEd will be hosting a summer 2017 professional development workshop. She led four workshops with 11th and 12th grade students in Joyce Voorhis’ and Sean Durrigan’s bioethics classes  and 9th grade students in Ethel Savas’ and Melissa Kelly’s biology classes.

MilliporeSigma Leadership Forum, Cambridge, MA, November 16, 2016 (invited speaker)

Marnie and Ting spoke with ~24 top executives from MilliporeSigma, sharing pgEd’s experiences and strategies for engaging the public. This stirred an energetic discussion about the importance of building trust and the role that companies can play.

Massachusetts Association of Science Teachers Annual Conference, Boxborough, MA, November 4, 2016 (presenter)

Lauren and Johnny met with science teachers from across Massachusetts, leading one workshop on pgEd’s introductory lesson and another on our lesson on reproductive genetic technologies. This was followed by a Share-a-Thon where pgEd met with teachers one-on-one and shared resources and lesson plans, including new materials on gene editing.

Roundtable Discussion on Population Health Leadership, Denver CO, November 2, 2016 (invited presenter)

Ting represented pgEd at this roundtable discussion organized by James Corbett of Centura Health. The event tackled the challenges of achieving comprehensive health care for all communities, inspiring all of the ~ two dozen participants to work more diligently and cooperatively toward a more effective health care system.

American Society of Human Genetics Annual meeting, Vancouver, Canada, October 19, 2016 (organizer/speaker, invited session)

Marnie chaired and Ting spoke at an invited session on “Education in Action: Meeting the Challenges of 21st Century Genetics,” which drew over 150 attendees to discuss parallel efforts for raising awareness, building trust, and increasing genomic literacy.

American Society of Human Genetics annual high school workshop, Vancouver, Canada, October 18, 2016 (invited presenter)

This was pgEd’s third year presenting at this workshop, which travels each year with the ASHG scientific conference. Marnie led three workshops for ~80 Vancouver-area high school students and teachers, who discussed and debated ethical questions at the intersection of genetics and athletics.

Advocating for Science Symposium, Future of Research, MIT, Cambridge, MA, September 16, 2016 (panelist)

Marnie brought pgEd’s experiences and perspectives on raising awareness to a panel discussion for junior scientists on shaping the future of the scientific research enterprise. She highlighted the effectiveness of pgEd’s neutral approach for sparking interest and building trust.

Minority Coalition for Precision Medicine Summit, Health Ministries Network, Baltimore, MD, September 7-8, 2016 (keynote speaker)

The Health Ministries Network convened a meeting of African American pastors and ministers with the goal of mobilizing the faith community to engage congregations on the topic of precision medicine.Ting, Marnie, and Johnny traveled to Baltimore, along with geneticist George Church (also a pgEd Advisor), Pastors Nathan Barczi and Chad Baldanza (Christ the King Church of Cambridge and Jamaica Plain/Roxbury, respectively), and Ann Merchant (The Science & Entertainment Exchange), for this two-day meeting, which was filled with frank discussion and ended with a sense that much could be accomplished by working together.

Writers Retreat, The Science & Entertainment Exchange, National Academy of Sciences, Carefree, AZ, August 5-7, 2016 (invited speaker)

The Science and Entertainment Exchange brought together ~ 15 writers of television and film and an equal number of scientists and researchers to brainstorm world issues, storylines, and shared goals from morning until late into the night. As always happens under the guiding influence of Ann Merchant and Rick Loverd of the Exchange, much common ground was found between the fields and professions represented.

Summer Institute for High School Teachers, Boston, MA, July 19-21, 2016 (organizer)

pgEd hosted its fifth summer institute, which drew 50 educators from science, health, social studies, and art to explore the intersection of genetics and social justice. This workshop, funded by the NIH SEPA program, included sessions on precision medicine, consumer genetics, reproductive genetics, gene editing, the American Eugenics movement, the microbiome, the law and DNA, research ethics, and the intersection of genetics and space. This energetic group of teachers from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Rhode Island, and South Dakota collectively serve ~6,800 students annually.

2016 Summer Institute Photo

Summer institute for teachers, Boston, MA

Teaching the Genome Generation Course for High School Teachers, The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, ME, July 11-15, 2016 (course faculty)

For the second year, Dana led the ethics strand of a week-long integrated professional development course on molecular genetics, bioinformatics, and bioethics in collaboration with The Jackson Laboratory. This course, funded by the NIH SEPA program, was attended by 17 teachers from in and around Maine.

Festival of Genomics – Boston, MA, June 28-29, 2016 (exhibitor)

Johnny, Marnie and Trisha brought a spotlight on engaging the public to the Festival, attended primarily by scientists and healthcare professionals, by exhibiting pgEd resources at a booth donated by Frontline Genomics. In addition, Ting chaired a session on Space Genetics, and Marnie tried out her theatrical skills as an actor in “The Drama of DNA.”

Teaching the Genome Generation Course for High School Teachers, The Jackson Laboratory, Farmington, CT, June 27 – July 1, 2016 (course faculty)

For the second year, Dana led the ethics strand of a week-long integrated professional development course on molecular genetics, bioinformatics, and bioethics in collaboration with The Jackson Laboratory. This course, funded by the NIH SEPA program, was attended by 15 teachers from in and around Connecticut.

Christ the King Church, Cambridge, MA, June 26, 2016 (invited speaker)

Ting joined Pastor Nathan Barczi and his congregation at their church on this Sunday morning to explore the cutting edge of genetic technologies – the questions and issues of how, why, when, and where-are-we going? Together, the gathering explored the possibility of working together to achieve comprehensive conversation and awareness throughout all communities. There was much enthusiasm for the goals and the potential for synergy.

Cornerstones of Science Library Partner Summit, Portsmouth, NH, June 6, 2016 (science partner/panelist)

The Cornerstones of Science brought together library and science partners from their Empowering Libraries Project to develop pathways for libraries to serve as community science centers. Marnie participated in a panel discussion and met one-on-one with library partners from six communities in Massachusetts and Maine to strategize about opportunities for libraries to disseminate information and increase conversation about genetics.

pgEd Industry Forum for Forging Community Partnerships, Boston, MA, May 19-20, 2016 (organizer)

pgEd convened over 40 representatives from healthcare, education, business, government, film and television, and communities of faith to explore strategies for tackling the gap in awareness and conversation about personal genetics between well-served and underserved communities. This one-of-a-kind meeting included leadership from some of the top companies in genetics, including 23andMe, Complete Genomics, DuPont, Editas Medicine, Illumina, Natera, Seven Bridges Genomics, and Veritas Genetics. Attendees were challenged to devise strategies that could achieve nation-wide awareness and conversations about genetic technologies within five years.

NIH SciEd conference for the Science Education Partnership Award program – Rockville, MD, May 9-12, 2016 (PI, poster)

Marnie attended the SciEd conference as the principle investigator on a five-year SEPA grant to pgEd to support a new school-based project, ARC (Building Awareness, Respect, and Confidence through Genetics). Dana and Marnie are also collaborating with The Jackson Laboratory on their SEPA project to provide the ethics strand of a professional development course for high school teachers, called Teaching the Genome Generation.

Roundtable discussion, NASA HQ, Washington, D.C., May 2, 2016 (invited speaker)

NASA Administrator, Charles Bolden, and Deputy Administrator, Dava Newman, invited Ting, Marnie, and George Church (pgEd Advisor) for a roundtable with NASA scientists on the physiological impacts of spaceflight, plans for NASA’s Journey to Mars, and the potential contributions of genetics to protect the health of astronauts.

Northeast Regional Conference on the Social Studies, Sturbridge, MA, April 5, 2016 (presenter)

Lauren brought personal genetics to social studies teachers through a session on the American Eugenics Movement and pgEd’s lesson in which students apply critical thinking skills to analyze primary source documents.

MassBio Annual Meeting, Cambridge, MA, April 1, 2016 (invited speaker)

This year, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council included a panel on Space Genetics, and pgEd was represented twice on that panel: Ting, who is also Director of the Consortium for Space Genetics at Harvard Medical School, introduced the panel and served as its moderator, and George Church, who is on pgEd’s Advisory Panel, was a panelist. 

CDC Genomics Seminar Series, Atlanta, GA, February 8, 2016 (invited speaker)

At the invitation of Drs. Muin Khoury and Ridgely Fisk of the Office of Public Health Genomics, Ting gave a presentation to the Centers for Disease Control about genetic technologies and the importance of engaging communities in two-way conversation. The discussions considered the growing importance of genomics in strategies for fighting infectious disease.

Sundance Film Festival, Park City, UT, January 22-28, 2016 (juror for the Alfred P. Sloan Prize)

pgEd participated in the Sundance Film Festival, with Ting serving as a juror for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Prize for Science-in-Film. Marie was also present to promote the goals of pgEd. Other members of the jury were Mike Cahill (two-time winner of the Sloan Prize; I Origins, Another Earth), Kerry Bishe (Halt and Catch Fire, Argo, Grand Piano, Sex and the City), Clifford Johnston (Physics, University of Southern California).

The Hastings Center Advisory Council Meeting, Program on Gene Editing, Garrison, NY, November 19, 2015 (invited speaker – gene editing, public engagement)

Ting was a guest of the Hastings Center, where her presentation described the cutting edge of genetic technologies and the various strategies that pgEd uses to engage the general public in conversation about genetics. There was much alignment regarding the potential for tremendous benefit through genetics as well as the need for informative, two-way conversation.

White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) briefing, Washington, D.C., November 17, 2015 (organizer)

Ting and Marnie Gelbart brought a panel of speakers – Drs. Diana Bianchi, Jennifer Doudna and George Church –to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) for a roundtable discussion with Jo Handelsman, Associate Director for Science at OSTP, and colleagues.

Capitol Hill briefings

Personal Genetics: Scientific Advances and Accelerating Public Awareness, hosted by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, May 13, 2014 (organizer)

Advancing a new initiative to engage our nation’s lawmakers, pgEd held a Congressional briefing on developments in the fields of genetics, personalized medicine, and genetic engineering as well as successful strategies for engaging the public. Speakers included Dana, Marnie, and Ting from pgEd and pgEd Advisor, George Church. The 90-minute program drew ~65 attendees, and several stayed 30-minutes or more for one-on-one conversations. As a result, pgEd was invited to organize a series of briefings to delve more deeply into the intersection of genetics and emerging policy questions.

Advances in Personal Genetics and GINA: Expanding Options and Protecting Civil Rights, hosted by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Senator Elizabeth Warren, October 3, 2014 (organizer) 

The briefing began with an update on recent advances in genetic technologies and then featured the latest research from the front lines of the Ebola outbreak. It then focused on the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), wherein a panel of experts looked ahead to new challenges arising from developments in technology, medicine, genetics, neuroscience, and beyond

Personal Genetics and Law Enforcement: Improving Public Safety, Ensuring Justice, and Balancing Civil Rights, hosted by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Senator Elizabeth Warren, March 19, 2015 (organizer)

pgEd’s third briefing began by highlighting research that illustrates how scientists are utilizing cutting-edge tools that probe the hidden world of microbes to improve health and increase public safety. Then, a panel of experts addressed the uses of DNA in the criminal justice system and emerging policy questions surrounding the acquisition, interpretation, and storage of DNA samples. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter was in attendance and lent her remarks to the discussions.

Gene Editing and Frontiers in Genetic Technologies:  Innovations, Impacts, and Implications, hosted by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Senator Elizabeth Warren, November 17, 2015 (organizer)

Three pioneering scientists who are all leaders in their fields – Drs. Diana Bianchi, Jennifer Doudna and George Church – spoke about technologies ranging from non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), CRISPR gene editing, to DNA nanotechnology. The standing-room only event was attended by over 150 staffers from Congressional offices, various government departments and agencies, academic and professional societies, and other members of the public.

Enduring the Extremes: Space Travel, Genetics, and Astronaut Health, hosted by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Senator Elizabeth Warren, May 3, 2016 (organizer)

This program left Earth’s orbit to focus on genetics and space travel, looking at the health effects of spaceflight, potential contributions of genetics to protect the health of astronauts, and the ethical considerations. The standing-room only event was attended by almost 200 staffers from Congressional offices, various government departments and agencies, academic and professional societies, and members of the public.


Minority Coalition for Precision Medicine Summit, Baltimore, MD

Professional development workshop (Boston, MA)

Professional development workshop, Boston, MA

Panel discussion on gene editing (New York City, NY)

Panel discussion on gene editing, New York, NY

Industry Forum for Forging Community Partnerships, Boston, MA

Industry Forum for Forging Community Partnerships, Boston, MA


Congressional briefing, Washington, D.C.


Sloan jury, Sundance Film Festival, Sundance, UT


White House OSTP, Washington, D.C.


Galileo High School, San Francisco, CA


Industry Forum for Forging Community Partnerships, Boston, MA


Summer institute for teachers, Boston, MA


Congressional briefing, Washington, D.C.


Capital City Public Charter School, Washington, D.C.

ASHG High School workshop (San Diego, CA)

ASHG High School workshop, San Diego, CA


Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA


Industry Forum for Forging Community Partnerships, Boston, MA


Science cafe, Bar Harbor, ME


Broad Institute, Cambridge, MA