Summer in the Institute: A Photographic Journey

We’ve been enjoying a busy summer at the BTC Institute, and we’ve done our best to provide high quality educational experiences for everyone from third graders, to graduate students and post-docs, to seasoned high school teachers. To close our summer, on August 25th, we’ll be hosting the University of Wisconsin-Madison Neuroscience Research Symposium, in partnership with the Neuroscience Training Program.

Read about all of the exciting learning that went on at BTC Institute this summer, enjoy the pictures, and start planning for the summer of 2017!

A Celebration of Life XXI: Summer Science Programs

These programs,which are offered every summer for elementary (3-5th graders) and middle school (6-8th graders) students, are created in partnership with the African American Ethnic Academy and with grant support from the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium/NASA. This year the elementary program served 15 students and the middle school program 17 students.

Instructional methods emphasize active learning around planet earth and the solar system. Hands-on laboratory activities related to planets, gravity, requirements for living systems. Students participated in outside activities and a field trip to the Milwaukee Museum. They studied current NASA projects related to planetary science, including the search for life and water on other planets. They also learned about historic and contemporary African American STEM professionals, including those affiliated with NASA, and they explored planetary science careers. Each session closed with students sharing their work with family members and friends, followed by informal conversations over lunch.









Camp Biotech I & II

Camp Biotech I, The Wonders of DNA, was held July 18–22 for 13 high school students and led by Oregon High School biology teacher, Peter Kritsch. This camp was launched last year, and because of its popularity, the sequel, Camp Biotech II, The Return of DNA, was held July 25–29 for 16 students. Both sessions were designed for students entering 9th or 10th grade in the fall.

Camp Biotech I students built DNA models, learned how to extract DNA from cells, performed agarose gel electrophoresis, amplified DNA to detect small quantities by PCR, and used restriction enzymes to identify DNA sequences.

Camp Biotech II students created genetically-engineered bacteria which glowed in the dark, explored STR analysis, used computers to analyze DNA sequences, and learned how to extract proteins from cells.

Along the way, both groups heard from great guest speakers and enjoyed field trips. Camp Biotech I students visited UW-Madison research labs and, of course, included a stop at Babcock Hall for ice cream!  Camp Biotech II students learned more about real world genetic identity testing from Marty Ensenberger and Margaret Ewing at Promega’s Faraday Center.






Univeristy of Wisconsin-Madison graduate courses

Molecular Approaches to Neuroscience: Gene Expression and Cell Analysis (June 13-17); 14 students
Core Techniques in Protein and Genetic Engineering (July 11-15); 23 students
In these two courses, students learned how to plan their projects in a way that allows them to take full advantage of the genetic engineering tools at their disposal. These tools includes updated genetic sequencing technologies (Next Generation Sequencing), PCR techniques, the use of plasmid vectors for cloning, plasmid purification and transfection into animal cells. The culmination of each intensive week was a representation of a sample workflow that a researcher might take in the course of studying a gene of interest.

Emerging Techniques in Protein and Genetic Engineering (July 18-22); 18 students
For this more advanced course, we provide students experiences working with technology on the cutting edge of molecular biology research.  For example, this year we were able to perform a CRISPR knock down and show students how to evaluate the efficiency of their experiment.

All three of these courses are offered for two graduate credits at UW-Madison: Molecular Approaches to Neuroscience through the Neuroscience Training Program and Core Techniques and Emerging Techniques through the Department of Oncology.





Biotechnology Teacher Academy

This year we offered two courses for teachers: Biotechnology the Basics (June 27-July 1) which served 13 teachers, and the Beyond the Basics course, which served 15 teachers.

We are pleased that, with the support of a grant from the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium/NASA and Promega Corporation, we were able to provide a $500 stipend to our participants this year.  This support, in addition to the fact that we eliminated course fees last year, helps make it possible for dedicated teachers to join us for an intensive week of training.  Designed to facilitate the smooth inclusion of biotechnology modules into their work with their students, our sense of the importance of this type of professional development opportunity was reinforced again this year:

This course is so incredibly valuable.  It keeps me focused on incorporating this type of knowledge & technology into my classroom.. I get so excited when I think about all the ways that I can improve my course.  Thank you for being such a great resource for teachers!

Thank you for taking such good care of us this week!  I did not miss home because I was so pampered here with good food and great company.  I refreshed a lot of content I have taught before and I learned many new things! Peter & Barbara – you are excellent teachers. [Note: Peter is Peter Kritsch, pictured on the right above, who also served as our lead instructor for Camp Biotech (see above); Barbara is Barbara Bielec, our K-12 Program Director.]



Thank you to all of our program participants and to those who support their attendance; to all of our instructors (including over 50 volunteers who contributed their expertise to these programs); and to our primary partners and sponsors:

  • African American Ethnic Academy
  • Department of Oncology, UW- Madison
  • Neuroscience Training Program, UW-Madison
  • Promega Corporation
  • Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium/NASA

For more information about these courses and the many other educational opportunities through the BTC Institute, visit the web site,

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Karin Borgh, PhD is the Executive Director of the BTC Institute.

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