DNA Day was created in 2003 by concurrent (Senate and House) congressional resolution to celebrate two important milestones in the study of genetics: the 50th anniversary of the description of the double-helix structure of DNA by James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick and the completion of the Human Genome Project. Officially DNA Day takes place on April 25th, but to accommodate classroom schedules many activities will take place on Friday, April 23rd this year.
Watson and Crick
On April 25, 1953 James Watson and Francis Crick published their description of the structure of DNA in the journal Nature. This report is considered one of the greatest scientific contributions of the last century. In 1962 Watson and Crick, along with Maurice Wilkins (another scientist who was involved in solving the structure of DNA), won the Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work.
Biographies of each man, their Nobel lectures, and other resources are available at the Nobel Foundation‘s website.
Rosalind Franklin, whose x-ray images of DNA were critical to solving its structure, was not included in the Nobel prize given to Watson, Crick and Wilkins (Franklin passed away in 1958 and the award is not given posthumously). You can learn about her career and how her work contributed to the solving of the structure of DNA at Nova’s online exhibit “Secret of Photo 51“.
Human Genome Project
The Human Genome Project, completed in 2003, was a 13-year endeavor coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health. Scientists from around the U.S. and the world contributed to one of the greatest feats of science ever.
The goals of the Human Genome Project were to
- identify all of the approximately 20,000-25,000 genes in human DNA,
- determine the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA,
- store this information in databases,
- improve tools for data analysis,
- transfer related technologies to the private sector, and
- address the ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI) that may arise from the project.
If you really want to get into the data, the NCBI Human Genome Resources page offers tons of information about the human genome – you can even download the sequence.
DNA Day Resources
- The best resource is the official DNA Day website at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). There you’ll find news, resources and tools having to do with genetics.
- No matter where they live, students and teachers can participate in National DNA Day through a live, moderated online chat with NHGRI researchers, which will be open for questions Friday, April 23, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- The NHGRI is hip and with it, so you can also find them on Twitter and Facebook.
- Special note to teachers: The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) can help you find a geneticist to talk to your class.
- If DNA Day gets your kids (or you!) thinking you’d like to make a career studying the ins and outs of the genome, there are several resources available:
- The Spittoon has put together a list of DNA-themed activities
DNA Day Happenings
So far we’ve found listings for events in just a few places, listed below. If you know of others, please leave a comment!
- University of Miami:
- The John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine is offering a free public education event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday, April 25, at the Miami Science Museum, 3280 S. Miami Ave., Miami, 33129. Children, ages 4-15, may visit different activity booths to learn about DNA. At each booth, they’ll receive a sticker. Those who bring a completed passport to the checkout will receive a gift. Members of the Boy and Girl Scouts can get a limited-edition activity patch for attending the event.
- Discovery Center of Springfield (Missouri):
- The anniversary of the discovery of DNA is celebrated by work projects, educational activities, exhibits, and fun for all ages 1-5 pm, Sunday, April 25th.. Plan to give blood that day from 12:00-6:00pm. Community Blood Center Blood Mobile will be parked in the Discovery Center parking lot. General admission to the center applies. Admission hours are 9:00am-5:00pm. For more information call guest services at 862-9910 Ext. 706.
- The Tech Museum of Innovation (San Jose, CA):
- Friday, April 23, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Join our Stanford at The Tech Museum team and the Santa Clara County Biotechnology Education Partnership for some hands-on DNA fun. Activities include:
- CSI, San Jose: Use DNA evidence to solve the mystery.
- Nuclear Photo: See your nucleus under a microscope and take home a picture of it.
- Seeing Cow DNA: Pull DNA out of a piece of beef and take the hundreds of miles of it home with you.
- To Taste or Not to Taste: See whether you can taste a chemical called PTC and learn about one of your 20,000 genes in the process.
- Making Medicine: Pull a glowing green protein out of bacteria to learn how scientists make medicines like insulin.
- Pipet Art: What happens when you take a recycled piece of lab supply, mix in a little color and include math like a Battleship game? It becomes Pipet Art!
- Activities will be available to all students in the Lower Level Galleries.
- Friday, April 23, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.