Suparna Bhalla,James Moran Mount Saint Mary College
Genomics at Mount Saint Mary College
BIO 302 Genetics
This course examines the principles, mechanisms and methodologies of classical and molecular genetics. It begins with an introduction to the chemical nature of heredity material. It investigates mechanisms of DNA replication, cell division, protein synthesis and control of gene expression. Emphasis is placed on identifying differences in prokaryotic and eukaryotic molecular pathways. Inheritance is examined using classical principles established by Gregor Mendel and is discussed in the context of modern theories of chromosomal molecular genetics. Inheritance patterns and allelic frequencies are studied at both the familial and population levels. Students will investigate and perform molecular techniques and bioinformatics based analyses currently utilized in biotechnology-based professions.
We utilized GEP materials to teach a three week laboratory module in bioinformatics. The first week covered the basics of BLAST and other web-based tools for analyzing molecular sequence data. The second and third weeks focused on strategies for genome annotation. We utilized GEP materials for presenting most of this content, including PowerPoint slides for background information and a step-by-step annotation example.
We had 5 students take the Genetics course for Honors credit. The following is a description of the requirements that exceeded those of the students in the regular course:
Students taking BIO 3020 Genetics for Honors credit will work in groups to extend a project that will be initiated within the laboratory section of the course. The Genetics class will be introduced to the disciplines of bioinformatics and genomics during the semester. All Genetics students will practice techniques of genome annotation in the laboratory. Honors students will be assigned projects to work on in small groups. They will analyze data and collect evidence to support their hypotheses concerning the correct annotation of a Drosophila genome segment. Groups will meet with the course instructor at weekly intervals to discuss their progress. Assessment of Honors students will be based on their regular progress reports demonstrating incremental gains. These projects will be done through active collaboration with the Biology Dept and Genome Sequencing Center of Washington University in St. Louis as part of the Genomics Education Partnership (GEP).
Lessons Learned and Future Plans
Our students indicated that they enjoyed participating in research efforts that went beyond Mount Saint Mary College. Although we only made moderate progress towards our research goals (did not finish any claimed projects within our semester), these students indicated that it was a good experience. Our Spring 2011 course was taught to a mixture of second semester sophomores and upperclassmen. Dr. Bhalla will take over teaching the Genetics course this year and we have decided that the module should be paired back a bit for the first semester Sophomores that will be taking the course this year (a change from previous years). I will expand upon these bioinformatics/genomics concepts in the new Principles of Microbiology course that these students will take in the spring of their Sophomore year.