An auditorium full of inquisitive middle to high school students and teachers from schools across the Rio Grande Valley learned the latest in genetics and its role in daily living at the 2003-04 Genetic Update Conference held at The University of Texas-Pan American Student Union on Jan. 22.
Presented by Sam Rhine, an Indiana University faculty member and director of the Genetic Ed Center in Indianapolis, the conference, which has been held for a number of years on the UTPA campus, featured topics such as "Mammalian and Human Cloning," "Gemellology - Twins and Twinning" and "Gametes and Fertilization - the Flagellated Bloodhounds!"
"One of the reasons I do this is for the career opportunity information for the students. A lot of these kids are going into the biological sciences and maybe medical school. It's like text biology out of the textbook and into the real world for the day to see what is really happening out there," Rhine said.
Dr. Robert Reeve, professor of education at UTPA and one of the University hosts for Rhine's presentation, said the conference goes right along with the College of Education's master's program with a concentration in the sciences and also attracts some of the best students in the Valley to the University campus.
"Sam gives the students the latest developments in genetics and hopefully stimulates their interest in learning more about genetics and possibly even being a scientist or medical researcher," Reeve said.
Clarissa Guerra, a teacher and Science Department head at Lincoln Middle School in McAllen has attended the conferences in previous years. She said besides the excitement and interest in the genetics field it has generated in some of her students, the conference helps teachers as well.
"We have so many demands on our time and trying to keep abreast with all the new developments in all the different areas we are responsible for is difficult. This (conference) is a one day shot and he does an excellent presentation. He doesn't speak in terms that a layman could not understand - he uses everyday language," Guerra said.
Attending with a group of 27 students from Roma High School was their science department leader, San Juanita Hinojosa, a UTPA undergraduate and graduate alumna.
"Hopefully this will instill in my students the importance of science education and will get them interested in the science areas and possibly pursue a career that will help out in the research," she said.
Sitting amid a group of students attending from Nikki Rowe High School in McAllen, Marco Doria, a junior, said he was interested in pursuing a career in the medical field. "In anatomy, I am learning more about the body and how it works. I attended the conference hoping to learn about how genetics works," he said.
Other hosts of the conference were Dr. John McBride, professor in the UTPA's Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education; Dr. Scott Gunn, professor of biology; and Dr. John Villarreal, professor of chemistry, both in the College of Science and Engineering.