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University of Illinois Introduces Genomics to American Indian Students

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American Indian students will be able to explore genetic research and have discussions with leading scientists about issues relevant to their communities at the Summer Internship for Native Americans in Genomics (SING), a six-day workshop at the University of Illinois.

According to the U. of I. press release, 20 students will attend the workshop being held July 10-16 at the Urbana campus.

The workshop’s organizer Ripan Malhi, a professor of anthropology and of animal biology at Illinois, pointed to recent legal cases in the release that “may foster the misimpression that Native Americans are anti-science or that there have been no positive collaborations among Native communities and researchers.”

One of the cases he sited was the Havasupai Tribe’s lawsuit against Arizona State University over the misuse of blood samples given in the 1990s for diabetes study. According to an April 22, 2010 story on the blood samples were also used for research on schizophrenia and inbreeding.

“The Arizona State officials came onto the reservation and told us they could help find a solution to diabetes,” Carletta Tilousi, Havasupai tribe member and lead plaintiff, was quoted as saying on the website. “Since diabetes plagues our community, my people were willing to give blood for that research, but once they obtained the samples, they were used for other research as well—research that calls into question our creation and religious beliefs.”

Malhi said in the U. of I. release that he’s had many positive working relationships with American Indian communities, but he’s also had experiences where Native people didn’t trust him because of past bad experiences.

“Such situations need to be avoided, and the best way to do that is to have individuals within the community that can perform these types of studies on their own,” Malhi said in the release. “And if they need to collaborate with outside scientists, it’s not a situation where the outside research has all the scientific knowledge.”

And that is the goal of this workshop. Native students—who can provide ancestry documentation—are eligible to apply by March 15. A 200-word summary of the student’s education, a curriculum vitae and a 500-word essay are also required.

For more information and to apply visit