The World of Genomics at The Field Museum, Chicago

Explore The World of Genomics at The Field Museum in Chicago during a special two day event presented by the IGB. Meet with IGB scientists in Stanley Field Hall and take part in hands-on activities to discover the fascinating world of genomic science and its impact on our lives.

The exhibit is free with Basic admission on Friday, May 19, and Saturday, May 20, 10am-2pm. The World of Genomics will also be on display during the Members' Nights celebration the evening of May 18 and May 19. Visit The Field Museum for details.

The World of Genomics will features six learning stations:

Tree of Life
The Tree of Life is the overarching metaphor used by Darwin to describe the evolutionary relationships between all organisms, both living and extinct. Its branches represent the diversity of life; its trunk, the origin of life on Earth. Though scientists long assumed there were only two basic domains of life—bacterial and eukaryotic—evidence of a third domain was found by Illinois researcher and IGB namesake Carl Woese in the 1970s. Woese’s discovery was one of the most important advances of the 20th century. The Tree of Life learning station explores the history of evolutionary genomics, with researchers at the station sequencing a never-before-sequenced organism live on site.

Food and Fuel
As our global population continues to increase, it’s clear we will need to grow more food and thus need to devote more land area to food crops. However, global climate change is limiting our useable farmland; moreover, food crops are increasingly in competition with the growing demand for biofuel crops to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. Through genetic engineering, we can breed plants that not only produce higher yields and can withstand drought and disease, but also grow on marginalized land not currently usable for agriculture. Visitors at this station can observe and interact with our crop-roving robot and use computer vision to identify the best plants in our test field.

Brains and Behavior
Studying the brain and the genes that help to shape its activity is an important tool to understand behavior, but these studies are incredibly challenging to do in humans. By identifying similar behaviors and genes in other animals, such as honey bees, we can better understand the evolution and function of different behavioral traits throughout the animal kingdom. This station will examine concepts related to the human brain and behavior through the lens of bee research, an important research area at the IGB. Visitors can view a live bee hive on display, and have access to tablets and virtual reality goggles to explore 3D models of the brain.

Personalized Health
Every human body is unique, and that variation includes how we develop, what foods we can digest, and what diseases we might be susceptible to—meaning that medical problems don’t have a one-size-fits-all solution. By understanding the genomic causes behind individual variation, we can create personalized treatment options for complex problems. This station showcases limb development in different species to examine how genes direct growth, a hands-on visualization of the unique microbial communities that live inside every person, and a 3D printer creating personalized implantable medical devices.

Emergence of Life
With help from the NASA Astrobiology Institute at Illinois, this station explores how life began by viewing the evolutionary relationships among all living things on Earth, from the mysterious first self-replicating entity to the present diversity of forms. Researchers are demonstrating how fossil and skeletal evidence can teach us about more than just dinosaurs; these remains of past life are the lasting traces of human global migration and the legacy of climate changes past and present. This station also features controllable remote instrumentation at the IGB’s Core Facilities Microscopy Suite, imaging human kidney stones at an incredibly fine scale, to reveal the interactions between geology and biology. These interactions were present during the emergence of life on Earth, play important roles in the human body today, and are likely to be a shared feature of life on other planets.  

DNA to Drugs
We are in increasingly desperate need of new treatment options for resistant and deadly diseases, but traditional drug discovery methods are producing ever-diminishing returns—there hasn’t been a new class of antibiotics discovered in over 30 years. However, genomic technologies have made it possible to screen thousands of candidates for potential new drugs, promising to speed the discovery process. Genomics has also allowed us to pinpoint the exact causes of a disease, making it easier to understand and treat. At this learning station, we can see how robotic devices are helping researchers perform tasks more quickly and accurately, watch antibiotics in action, and meet the pet dogs who have helped our researchers demonstrate the success of new cancer therapies.


The IGB thanks the following sponsors of the World of Genomics: 



Carl Zeiss Microscopy


Illinois Soybean Association Checkoff Program

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)


Pacific Biosciences

University of Illinois Sesquicentennial

Date Published: 
Fri, 05/12/2017 (All day)