Genetic conference to fire up students about science

SUGAR LAND – About 300 high school and college students will hear the latest information about cloning, stem cell research and other micro-sized topics at the Genetic Update Conference on Monday at the University of Houston System at Sugar Land.

Richard Gunasekera
Richard Gunasekera

“We’re going to talk about a lot more than just DNA,” said Richard Gunasekera, the conference’s coordinator and an associate professor of biology at the University of Houston-Victoria. “Plain DNA is kind of old-fashioned these days.”

UHV offers biology and many other programs at UHSSL.

Sam Rhine
Sam Rhine

Sam Rhine, an international lecturer and scholar of human genetics, will bring the latest information he’s gathered from scouring more than 1,500 articles in about 100 professional journals to the daylong conference, Gunasekera said.

Students will learn about the latest discoveries in RNA, which encodes the messages in DNA and is considered the more fashionable molecule in current research, Gunasekera said. They’ll hear about the newest breakthroughs in cloning, stem cell research and gene therapy that soon may be able to treat certain birth defects in unborn children.

“We’ve wanted to bring Mr. Rhine here for several years, but he is quite in demand for speaking engagements,” Gunasekera said.

Rhine has lectured in London, Tokyo, Prague, Vienna, Nairobi and St. Petersburg. He has given more than 8,500 presentations to more than 3.8 million students, according to his Web site at He is an adjunct faculty member at Indiana University in Bloomington, and lectures to teachers and nurses across the U.S.

“We hope students come away from this event informed and excited about the growing world of molecular biology,” Gunasekera said. “I hope some of them will come back and see us as they pursue their bachelor’s and master’s degrees.”

The conference will be from 8:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. in the auditorium of UHSSL Brazos Hall, 14004 University Blvd. Individuals can preregister and download notes for the different presentations at Rhine’s Web site or register at the event up until the conference begins. The event is $15 for the public and free to UHSSL and UHV students.

For more information, contact Gunasekera at 281-275-8826 or

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Thomas Doyle 361-570-4342