HHMI-sponsored phage course


To quote Mr. Anthony Pham (pre-med Biology major and rising Junior who just took this class):  Phage and  Genomics is a new research intensive  course offered at XULA in the Department of Biology. Sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, this course is a legitimate research experience. Not the typical laboratory course, it requires honest attention and timely participation, which yield results beyond satisfaction. The course is split into two semesters (3 credit hours earned each semester): one consists of phage research in the lab and the other of genome analysis using a computer. Being experienced with this course, I found that the benefits I received from taking part in this course far outweigh the time I dedicated to doing research. From this class, I gained lab experience, a more in-depth understanding of phages and genomes, and memories I will never forget. All of this and more along with a class of peers that take on the same challenge as you and professors who encourage free thinking and self-driven research. It is not a class where you are given strict directions to abide by, it is a course that allows you to truly embrace scientific research and to come to your own conclusions as to which steps to take as your proceed in your research”.

The Phage and Genomics course is an elective for rising Sophomores.  Since the Spring of 2011, the HHMI has sponsored the development and implementation of a two-semester course that represents a novel approach to the teaching of modern biology to lower-level undergraduate students.  Offered for the first time in the 2011-2012 academic year under the direction of Dr. Joseph Ross, Associate Professor of Biology, and assisted by Dr. Shubha Ireland, Professor and Chair of Biology, Introduction to Phage and Genomics enabled sixteen sophomore biology majors to isolate their own harmless viruses from samples of soil and characterize them biologically and biochemically.  Students were exposed to a variety of classical and modern techniques of microbiology, virology, molecular biology and biochemistry as they worked singly, in pairs and as a class to assemble a collection of viruses, purify them, obtain DNA from them and characterize the DNA chemically and physically.  One sample of DNA was chosen and has been sent to a sequencing laboratory.  In the second semester the students received considerable hands on experience in the use of modern software tools to characterize a viral genome at the nucleotide level:  identifying genes, constructing a detailed map of the genome and using sequence comparison and analysis tools to suggest functions.  Three students, McKenzie Moses, Wardah Mustahsan and Antonio Roberts will present the class’s results at a symposium at the HHMI Janelia Farms Research Campus in June 2012.  For more information, contact Dr. Joseph Ross.

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