31. marts 2022

Bringing genomics into the classroom of Danish high schools

In 2020, the Danish teaching material for high school students “Data analysis & Cancer (Dataanalyse & Kræft”) was launched, and since then, the material has received significant attention from teachers across Denmark. Teachers from approx. 50 Danish high schools have participated in “train-the-trainer” workshops on how to use the teaching material, and the website www.dataanalyseogkræft.dk has had almost 4.000 visitors. The material was developed by BRIC, the Department of Public Health (Section of Biostatistics), Herlev & Gentofte Hospital and Roskilde High School. .

“We are very pleased that the material has been so well received by teachers and students. The COVID-epidemic and lockdown has not been an easy time for teachers to try out new and challenging materials, , but in spite of this, the number of visitors to workshops and website shows that the material has been well used and that we have met a need with this material,” Anne Rahbek-Damm, project leader

As teachers from around a third of all Danish high schools have taken interest in the material, students across Denmark have had the chance to try their hand at analyzing authentic genomic data sets from real cancer patients. This includes working with the subjects of Data Analysis, Cancer Biology, Bioinformatics, Statistics and use of mathematical models, in a way made simpler yet applicable by students.

The material, which is made for biotechnology/biology and mathematics, was developed in collaboration between researchers from BRIC, the Department of Public Health at UCPH, the Department of Pathology at Herlev and Gentofte Hospital, and high school teachers from Roskilde High School. The aim was to give students insights on how researchers analyze genomic data and use it to develop precision medicine for cancer patients. Furthermore, the project has a strong focus in training teachers to use intuitive tools that could be used in their classrooms.

Our aim was to introduce students to the field of data analysis and cancer by offering them a chance to employ the methods we use in cancer research. We wanted to show them how complex the field and how many disciplines and competences are at play. More than that, we also wanted to add a unique experience to them, by providing with intuitive toolboxes so they could try themselves. Hopefully, this will inspire more students to pursue a career within the field of cancer research, Douglas Vinicius Nogueira Perez de Oliveira, Senior researcher at Herlev and  Gentofte Hospital, member of the project group.

Professor Estrid Høgdall giving presentation
Professor Estrid Høgdall introduces teachers to genomic data analysis in the clinic

An interdisciplinary teaching course between math & biotech

The material consists of an e-book, which the teachers can use in an interdisciplinary teaching course, combining mathematics and biotechnology. The e-book contains background material on cancer biology, precision medicine and statistics, plus a series of exercises where the students will work with the online database cBioPortal. There are also suggestions for supplementary reading material, practical exercises and study programme projects within the subject.

The material is based on the free online database cBioPortal, developed by cancer researchers at Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital. Here, you can search anonymous patient data from large cancer studies around the world. Based on the background material, the students must try to find trends and links between, for example, genetic mutations and forms of treatment.

Project group

Biotechnology
Joachim Weischenfeldt, group leader, Biotech Research & Innovation Centre (BRIC), UCPH
Aidan Flynn, postdoc, Biotech Research & Innovation Centre (BRIC)
Ida Thingstrup, lector, Roskilde Gymnasium
Estrid Vilma Solyom Høgdall, clinical Professor, Department of Pathology / Regionernes Bio- og GenomBank (RBGB), Herlev & Gentofte Hospital
Douglas Vinicius Nogueira Perez de Oliveira,Senior researcher, Department of Pathology / Regionernes Bio- og GenomBank (RBGB),Herlev & Gentofte Hospital

Mathematics
Claus Thorn Ekstrøm, professor, the Department of Public Health (Section of Biostatistics), UCPH
Anne Lyngholm Sørensen, the Department of Public Health (Section of Biostatistics), UCPH
Bjarke Hansen, lector, Roskilde Gymnasium

Project leader:
Anne Rahbek-Damm, Senior communications & outreach officer,  Biotech Research & Innovation Centre (BRIC), UCPH