$2 million NSF grant funds genomics research at Linfield, other colleges

Summer research at Linfield CollegeLinfield College science students will have new opportunities to contribute to genomics research, thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).  

Catherine Reinke, associate professor of biology at Linfield College, has taught genome annotation – identifying the locations of genes in DNA – for the past seven years, finding the subject to be “an exceptional teaching tool.”  

“Students love the fact that they are really contributing to the scientific enterprise,” she said.  

Recently, Reinke co-authored a successful proposal to land an NFS grant for the Genomics Education Partnership, a collective of 100-plus schools that introduces and supports research opportunities for students and faculty at diverse and underrepresented institutions.  

The NSF-Improving Undergraduate STEM Education grant, which features a budget of $1.99 million to stretch across five years, begins Oct. 1. The goal of the award is to expand the GEP membership while fostering greater collaboration among community colleges and minority-serving schools that haven’t previously been involved in genomics research.  

Linfield was the first educational institution in Oregon to join the GEP, and the college was introduced by Reinke, whose students have participated in the GEP since her arrival in McMinnville seven years ago. Now, thanks to her efforts, which include a new online genomics course, trained Linfield students will have the opportunity to participate in research and assist with research implementation as teaching assistants for new faculty at community colleges.  

“It is a priority of the scientific community to diversify the STEM workforce to make continued progress in science as a nation, which is one reason why work of this sort is compelling to NSF,” said Reinke, a GEP Steering Committee member since 2017.  

In addition, the grant also supports the introduction of new science partners, which will enable Linfield students and undergraduates nationwide to contribute to genomics research that explores new scientific questions about the evolution of organisms, genes and genomes. During the duration of the grant, the GEP will explore portable models for the sustainability of a nationwide STEM education initiative.  

“The work of the GEP is invaluable in keeping faculty well trained in a rapidly moving field, which benefits faculty and their students,” Reinke said. “It makes us all life-long learners.”