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The week of August 8-11, I'm offering two courses at the John and Mary Pappajohn Education Center in downtown Des Moines. This is an exciting development resulting from my foray several years ago into the DTC (direct-to-consumer) genetics market in preparation to offer a seminar for first-year students at The University of Iowa. I've been amazed by the growing public interest in commercial DNA testing (AncestryDNA just reached 2 million samples - growing by 1 million samples in the past 11.5 months), and as a geneticist I also recognize the difficulties many consumers face making sense of their DNA test results.

My engagement with the DTC DNA testing market has afforded many opportunities to present about what alternatives the market offers and their scientific merits. Two things have always concerned me about the effectiveness of these events: 1) I don't control the venue, 2) the presentations are primarily lecture with little participant engagement. My educational activities at The University of Iowa emphasize student-centered practices aimed at engaging students in their learning, yet I have been unable to apply these principles effectively when engaging with the public.

The courses in Des Moines address my concerns. These courses will be taught in the computer classroom of the Pappajohn Education Center. Class size will be limited to around 20 participants, and all participants are expected to already have test results available to them from 23andMe, AncestryDNA, and/or the Family Finder test of FTDNA. Using their own test results, the approach will focus on the What, Why and How of genome-wide SNP testing as applied to genealogical research. Essentially, this is my first year seminar course, but with a focus on the genetics of DNA testing applied to genealogical research.

A sequence of two courses will be offered (detailed information linked here). The first course, Getting to Know Your DNA Relatives, is directed at individuals just beginning to understand their DNA test results. The goal is to make participants proficient in knowing what information is reported, what it means, how to navigate the site, and of course, why the company is able to make these inferences. This first course will also begin to introduce the tools of genetic genealogy, such as downloading the raw data for upload to another database. The application of tools, however, is the focus of the second course in the series, Building DNA Families. Depending on personal experience and goals, participants may want to sign up for only a single course. The second course will build on the knowledge and skills of the first, so taking both is recommended for comprehensive coverage of autosomal (and X) DNA tests. 

These courses are not appropriate for individuals that have only tested their Y chromosome and/or mitochondrial DNA. The same applies for individuals that have only tested with The Genographic Project. There may be opportunities in the future to develop more specialized courses, so complete this interest form if you want to be informed of these opportunities. 

The UI Center for Conferences is handling registration for these courses: