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GREENSBORO –  North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has landed a $5.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create a genomics educational hub that will provide new educational and research opportunities for undergraduate and master’s students who are historically underrepresented in biomedical sciences.

The Genomics Research and Data Science Center for Computation and Cloud Computing (GRADS-4C) will be based at A&T and will anchor a community of institutions – including Shaw University, Winston-Salem State University and North Carolina Central University ­­­- that are serving students from diverse backgrounds, including those from groups historically underrepresented in biomedical sciences, and are invested in genomic data science education. The hub will facilitate educational and research initiatives at these institutions through workshops and hands-on learning sessions while developing strategies to address their educational and training challenges in underserved communities.

GRADS-4C will be led by Kristen Rhinehardt, Ph.D., principal investigator and co-director, an assistant professor in computational and data science engineering, College of Engineering; and Joseph L. Graves Jr., Ph.D., co-principal investigator and director, MacKenzie Scott Endowed Professor of Biology, College of Science and Technology. GRADS-4C will use cloud computing platforms to share educational resources for genomic data science to ensure its accessibility to various institutions who may not have sophisticated computing facilities. Other N.C. A&T faculty include co-principal investigators Christopher C. Doss, Ph.D., electrical and computer engineering, and Perpetua M. Muganda, Ph.D., and Scott H Harrison, Ph.D., from the Department of Biology.

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“GRADS-4C will have a transformative impact on genomic, data science, and cloud computing research and training at HBCUs and MSIs,” Graves said. “We will provide educational and hands- on research training and resources in computational genomics, data sciences, and cloud computing for the future workforce in these fields. This award is particularly important in that this is one of the first times that the NIH has awarded a project of this scope to a consortium where an HBCU is the lead institution. It further makes the case for the transition of North Carolina A&T to Research-1 status.”

“This award will provide opportunities for students from different backgrounds to experience genomic data science research, individuals who may otherwise not have access to these topics through their institutions,” said Shurjo Sen, Ph.D., program director in the Office of Genomic Data Science within the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).

“Instead of requiring their college or university to have its own high-performance computing infrastructure, students will be able to access genomic data and resources with only a laptop and an internet connection. Through the hub, cloud computing will be used as an educational tool, which will make genomic data and analysis tools more readily available.”

With the recent growth of cloud computing technologies, researchers have more access to genomic data sets, tools and resources. The educational hub will use NIH-funded cloud-based platforms, such as the NHGRI Genomic Data Science Analysis, Visualization and Informatics Lab-space (AnVIL) and the All of Us Research Program’s Researcher Workbench to enable researchers to gain research skills in the genomic data science field.


“Genomics crosses so many different disciplines and there is so much within the NIH AnVIL network that will allow users to better reach their research goals as well as provide resources to those who may not have the computing infrastructure or the knowledge base to have their research come to fruition,” Rhinehardt said. “An inclusive workforce, not just in genomics but in every field, helps foster creativity and diversity of thought, which leads to scientific breakthroughs.”

(C) NC A&T