Genetic Literacy: A 'Skill Up Somerville' workshop

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The Row Hotel at Assembly Row

360 Foley Street

Somerville, MA 02145

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Event description


Are you perplexed about the issues around DNA analysis, such as the genealogy and health claims that you see daily? This program is a full day workshop session designed for those interested in learning about the digital tools and genetic knowledge necessary for understanding how the fast-growing science of genetics and genomics will impact society and their lives. Decision options around choosing an ancestry DNA analysis provider, or submitting your DNA to various health or wellness services, will be explored. The workshop will include active learning experiences and hands-on training to supplement lecture and reading materials.

Geared towards folks who are beginners in understanding DNA in the context of genetics, health, and ancestry. Basic features of DNA and variation will be introduced to offer the framework for understanding DNA testing outcomes.

Each session will be led by a biologist with a PhD, who has also had their DNA tested and understands the issues we face.

Outcomes from Genetic Literacy include:

  • understanding basic concepts surrounding DNA, genes, and genetic terminology.

  • exploring how genetics impacts identity and ancestry, and examining popular genealogy web sites.

  • knowing how to assess health-related DNA claims, using digital tools.

  • getting acquainted with strategies to identify quality sources of public information relating to DNA and health issues

  • becoming aware of the potential risks associated with DNA data and related privacy concerns.

This workshop is independent of any DNA analysis providers and will not provide or offer DNA testing or diagnostic services, nor medical advice. The workshop is entirely informational, providing guidance on the types of providers and tools that exist. Attendees are welcome to bring their own laptops or tablets, or may request a loaner. Alternatively, you are not required to use a computer, and may choose to come for the information and workshop materials packets.

Participants must complete the entire workshop in order to receive the digital badge.

Presented by: BosLab, a non-profit community lab, and OpenHelix are partnering with the City of Somerville to offer this DNA Literacy workshop and Digital Badge opportunity.

A three-evening workshop (three consecutive Mondays) is also available. Please visit


Where is the workshop being held?

The Row Hotel at Assembly Row, 360 Foley St., Somerville, MA

Do I need a computer?

You may bring your own laptop or tablet to use or we can supply a laptop for you, free of charge. Please note that a computer is NOT mandatory; you can attend the event and utilize the provided handouts. Answer the questions required on the Eventbrite registration form to let us know what your computer needs are.

Is there a minimum age requirement to enter the event?

We strongly discourage children under 4 from attending. Older children from 4-12 may attend if accompanied by parent or guardian. Youth between 12 and 16 may attend if accompanied by a parent or adult or has signed permission note to attend.

What level of biology and genetics understanding do I need?

This workshop is aimed for those with high school level of biology and genetics--even if your high school was decades past--but all levels are welcome. Basic information will be given at the beginning of the workshop to provide you with necessary knowledge for the remainder of the workshop. This workshop will not be aimed at folks with advanced science training, but at new current and future users of DNA testing and ancestry tools.

What are my transportation/parking options for getting to and from the event?

MBTA Orange Line Stop at Assembly (0.1 mi NW to The Row Hotel); MBTA bus lines 90 and 92 service to stop at Intersection of Grand Union/Foley St. (400 yards E to hotel). Visit to plan the optimal route for you.

Valet parking is provided at the Row Hotel at a cost of $35/day. Assembly Row offers 3-hour parking for free. There are several public parking garages nearby (Canal Garage, Artisan West Garage, SP+ Garage).

Will the workshop be conducted in English?

Yes, English will be the language used during this workshop.

Will lunch be provided?

Lunch will be on your own. There are several restaurants at Assembly Row. To view your options, please visit Light snacks will be provided during the morning and afternoon breaks.

Do I need to bring anything specifically for the workshop?

You may want to bring items to take notes. If your computer or tablet battery will not last the entire session, bring a power cord for charging.

Does this class provide DNA testing?

No, we will not offer any testing services. We are not affiliated with any testing companies. We are independent scientists providing information on the issues that could guide your choices to obtain testing, and which kinds of services exist, but we will not specifically endorse any.

Will you look at my DNA test results?

This class is not designed for individual assessment of personal testing data. We will point people to resources that can help users to evaluate their results. We will not provide medical advice.

I can no longer attend. How do I cancel?

Simply cancel your registration through Eventbrite. Since the event is free, refunds do not apply.

Is there a waiting list?

Yes, we will maintain a waiting list if spots open up as we approach the workshops. You will be notified by Eventbrite if space becomes available and receive a confirmation.

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The Row Hotel at Assembly Row

360 Foley Street

Somerville, MA 02145

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