Genomic Expressions: What does genomics mean to you?

Date: 22 March 2018

Becky Gilmore, curator of Genomic Expressions, talks about the most personal Wellcome Genome Campus exhibition to date.

Becky Gilmore, curator of Genomic Expressions, talks about our most personal exhibition to date

How would you answer this question? Does it mean your family? What about your health? Or perhaps the answer is, “I’ve no idea!”? For our latest exhibition I posed this question to those who work at the Wellcome Genome Campus.

2018 is the 25th anniversary of the Wellcome Sanger Institute; a milestone to reflect on our unique place in the world. The Wellcome Genome Campus was established in 1993 as the UK hub of the international Human Genome Project; a project to sequence the entire human genome for the first time, working out the code letter by letter – all 3.2 billion! The project took 13 years to complete but it changed, forever, how we would understand biology. Today, researchers are working on sequencing, and understanding, thousands of genomes to help improve human health.

To me, with my role working within an active research community and with the public, genomics is a subject that connects us all; as humans our genomes are 99.5%} identical. It is a subject that we talk about often, even without realising it: I have my mother’s eyes, that funny family chin (thanks dad!) or how likely it is that I will develop a certain disease. Underpinning these huge scientific and technological developments is the essence of our ‘common thread’ and our shared desire to know more what makes us, us.

Peak into the Genomic Expressions exhibiton booklet

One of the wonderful things about being a genome scientist is the personal connection to your own research. My work involves finding genetic variants involved with diseases, and every one of those discoveries tells me something about myself, too
Dr Jeffrey Barrett, Director of Open Targets and Senior Group Leader at the Wellcome Sanger Institute

Part of the interest and excitement in putting out an open call for an exhibition is the unknown: what responses will be submitted? Will any responses be submitted?! I needn’t have worried. The exhibits featured in the Genomic Expressions exhibition have been created by people from across our campus: lab assistants, administrators, software developers, and senior scientists. They have all approached the question in unique, creative and honest ways – they may not be what you expect!

For me, genomics is about exploration. It is a chance to understand a hidden language that unites all life yet at the same time, almost paradoxically, underscores biological diversity
Alex Cagan, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wellcome Sanger Institute

As a curator it has been wonderful to explore these responses and bring the show together. Developing the show has reinforced my belief that genomics is a subject that is personal and relatable. Some exhibits have made me smile, some are heart-warming but all have made me reflect on my own answer to the question. I hope they do this for you too.

Genomic Expressions is a free exhibition, and can be visited on one of our monthly Open Saturday events that are open to all, or by prior arrangement for group visits. The exhibition opened on 17th February and runs until 16th June 2018.

Genomics means ‘family’ to me. It’s the silver thread that links me to my relatives; it’s about what is shared within my family and our communal heritage. My sister, mother and maternal grandfather are all artists and sculptors and this is the angle I’ve explored in my exhibition entry
Dr Anna Middleton, Head of Wellcome Genome Campus Society and Ethics Research

Visit Genomic Expressions at the Genome Gallery in the Wellcome Genome Campus Conference Centre on the following Open Saturdays:

  • 24 March
  • 21 April
  • 19 May
  • 16 June


Becky Gilmore
Exhibition Curator, Wellcome Genome Campus Public Engagement