WILMINGTON, DE — Amanda Hewes, MS, education program manager at ChristianaCare’s Gene Editing Institute, has been named one of the 2023 Outstanding Delaware Women in STEM by Million Women Mentors, an international movement dedicated to encouraging girls and women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Hewes’ selection spotlights her dedication to engaging young people in the science of gene editing by introducing the Gene Editing Institute’s CRISPR in a BoxTM educational toolkit into classrooms across Delaware and her commitment to bridging disparities in STEM education.
“I’m overjoyed to be honored among so many amazing women in this state,” Hewes said. “It’s humbling to be considered and to stand alongside them. All of these women foster and lead dynamic communities of young women that inspire me every day. I hope that I can do the same by making young women in this state feel empowered through the work that I do.”
Hewes joined ChristianaCare’s Gene Editing Institute in 2017 with a focus on expanding its CRISPR gene editing system in a cell-free environment. She was first author in a publication in Nature that established the highly innovative “gene editing on a chip” protocol that allowed CRISPR to edit DNA outside of the cell for the first time. This methodology enables researchers to take fragments of DNA extracted from human cells, place them in a test tube and precisely engineer multiple changes to the genetic code.
This gene editing system eventually led to the creation of the CRISPR in a Box™ toolkit. This innovative educational resource provides a way for students to learn about this exciting frontier of science through a hands-on exercise in which they use CRISPR gene editing to disrupt a synthetic gene within a plasmid. The simplicity of this experiment allowed for the reaction to be developed into a remarkable teaching tool that can be brought into most school laboratories containing basic laboratory equipment.
Once CRISPR in a Box™ was developed, Hewes recognized the potential it could have for high school and college students. She took on a new role as education program manager and expanded the Gene Editing 360™ platform, which is the Gene Editing Institute’s suite of educational tools for engaging students and the public.
“Amanda has set us on a tremendous path toward providing more educational opportunities for Delaware students,” said Eric Kmiec, Ph.D., director of ChristianaCare’s Gene Editing Institute. “She’s inspired young women in multiple states and has created so much of this program with her own ingenuity and passion.”
Hewes was honored alongside 10 other women by Gov. John Carney, Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long and others at the Delaware State House with the signing of a proclamation to declare March 24, 2023, as “Delaware Women and Girls in STEM Day.”