classroom activities

Wow! One of my commenters, Ms. Baker, suggested an entirely new way that scientists can help with science education. The only requirement is that a science class have their own blog. So, if your science class has a blog, let me know, so I can share the URL and maybe recruit some scientists or at least graduate students, to take a look. I think this idea is so great! It doesn't involve any kind of traveling and many, many different scientists can participate, thus minimizing volunteer burn out. It also gives students a way to practice writing about what they do and interacting ... Read more
Part I. The back story from the genome record Together, these five posts describe the discovery of a novel paramyxovirus in the Aedes aegyptii genome and a new method for finding interesting anomalies in GenBank. I. The back story from the genome record II. What do the mumps proteins do? And how do we find out? III. Serendipity strikes when we Blink. IV. ... Read more
A few days ago, I wrote about a cool project that some high school students did where they used DNA sequencing to identify seafood. One question that came up from one of my commenters was how a school would start a project like this. I'm totally biased, but I think DNA sequencing (well, actually the data analysis) is one of the most interesting things that a class can do as part of a research project. These days, getting started with this kind of project, wouldn't be so hard. Here's are ... Read more
Two teenagers, Kate Stoeckle and Louisa Strauss, carried out their own science project over the past year. They visited 4 restaurants and 10 grocery stores and gathered 60 samples of fish and sent them off to the University of Guelph to get sequenced. I like this story. One of my former students did a project like this for the FDA years ago, sampling fish from the Pike Place Market and identifying them with PCR. He was an intern, though. Here we have students identifying sushi on their own! Quoting the ... Read more
What happens when high school students clone and sequence genomic DNA? Background DNA sequencing is a wonderful tool for discovery and a great technique for getting students involved in molecular science. This fall, Bio-Rad will officially begin selling their DNA cloning and sequencing kit. Now, students across the country will have the tools in hand to begin their own projects cloning and sequencing plant genes. Of course, without bioinformatics there's no way to know what's been cloned or sequenced. This is where we come in. As part of an ... Read more
What are you learning in school? xkcd has the inside track on the really important stuff.
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Dave Robinson and Joann Lau from Bellarmine College in Kentucky are going to be describing their student project in a free webinar next Friday, May 16th. Their students clone GAPDH (Glyceraldehyde 3-Phosphate Dehydrogenase) genes from new plants, assemble the DNA sequences, and submit them to the NCBI. Here's an example. Plus, since GAPDH is a highly conserved, it's a great model for looking at ... Read more
Over 2600 genetic diseases have been found where a change in a single gene is linked to the disease. One of the questions we might ask is how those mutations change the shape and possibly the function of a protein? If the structures of the mutant and wild type (normal) proteins have been solved, NCBI has a program called VAST that can be used to align those structures. I have an example here where you can see how a single amino acid change makes influenza resistant to Tamiflu®. This 4 minute movie below shows ... Read more
In the class that I'm teaching, we found that several PCR products, amplified from the 16S ribosomal RNA genes from bacterial isolates, contain a mixed base in one or more positions. We picked samples where the mixed bases were located in high quality regions of the sequence (Q >40), and determined that the mixed bases mostly likely come from different ribosomal RNA genes. Many species of bacteria have multiple copies of 16S ribosomal RNA genes and the copies can differ from each other within a single genome and between genomes. Now, in one of our last projects we are determining where ... Read more
I think all of us; me, the students the OO advocates, a thoughtful group of commenters, some instructors; I think many of us learned some things that we didn't anticipate the other day and got some interesting glimpses into the ways that other people view and interact with their computers. Some of the people who participated in the challenge found out that it was harder than they expected. Lessons learned Okay, what did we learn? 1. The community is the ... Read more

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