Science education

The University of Nevada in Las Vegas is looking for a few good undergraduates to come do research this summer in environmental microbiology. Environmental microbiology goes way beyond hot springs bacteria and Yellowstone Park. At UNLV, you can do science in the desert. It almost makes me wish I was an undergraduate again. The Microbiology faculty at the UNLV and the Desert Research Institute are looking for inquisitive and eager undergraduates to participate in a 10 week summer research experience in the REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program. Projects involve ... Read more

Shotgun sequencing. Sounds like fun. Speculations on the origin of the phrase I think that this term came from shotgun cloning. In the early days of gene cloning before cDNA, PCR, or electroporation; molecular biologists would break genomic DNA up into lots of smaller pieces, package DNA in lambda phage, transduce E. coli, and hope for the best. Consistent with the shotgun metaphor, we even used to store our microfuge tubes in plastic bullet boxes that my boss found at the sporting goods store. (Apparently this practice was unique ... Read more

Considering that several genomes that have been sequenced in the past decade, it seems amazing in retrospect, that the first complete bacterial genome sequence was only published 12 years ago (1). Now, the Genome database at the NCBI lists 450 complete microbial genomes (procaryotes and archea), 1476 genomes from eucaryotes, 2145 viruses, and genome sequences from ... Read more
Tired of waiting for congress and you don't want to move to California or out of the US? Attila Csordas shows us in a few photographs how to isolate placental stem cells at home. His series brings back memories. My very first paid technician job in college involved visiting the maternity ward, collecting placentas, and starting primary cell cultures from umbilical epithelial cells. I would tie one end of umbilical cord, squirt a bit of media with some trypsin, and incubate the thing for a while so that the trypsin could digest some of the proteins that held the cells together. After a ... Read more
About a week ago, I offered to answer questions about subjects that I've either worked with, studied or taught. I haven't had many questions yet, but I can certainly answer the ones I've had so far. Today, I'll answer the first question: How do you sequence a genome? Before we get into the technical details, there are some other genomic questions that you might like answered. How much does it cost to sequence a genome? I remember in 2002, when we were at the ... Read more
In the effort to help us define a few basic concepts, PZ started out by giving us a nice simple definition of a gene, but as he, rightly noted:
I tell you right now that if I asked a half dozen different biologists to help me out with this, they'd rip into it and add a thousand qualifiers, and it would never get done.
Well, okay, technically speaking he didn't ask me for help. But, since I'm a ... Read more
I read about this in Science and immediately had to check it out. Instant gratification on the internet is such a wonderful thing! The Ed Kravitz lab has made movies of fights and even put them on the web for your viewing pleasure. You can see the following fly fights that might suit your fancy: Fighting flies
The American Society for Human Genetics is sponsoring the second annual DNA Day Essay contest. If you are a high school teacher here's your chance to combine an interesting assignment along with a contest. This year's essay questions are:
  • If you could be a human genetics researcher, what would you study and why?
  • In what ways will knowledge of genetics and genomics make changes to health and health care in the US possible?
The rules are here at I also have an animated tutorial ... Read more
The bioinformatics classes that I teach use web services and web sites as much as possible, but I still find that it's helpful to have programs on our classroom computers. Here is a list of my favorite desktop programs for those of you who might want to add some bioinformatics activities to your biology courses. Why not use the Web? Before going on, I should probably explain, why we use desktop programs, we have so many things available on the web. We do use the web whenever we can. Web services are nice because you can shift the computation burden to someone ... Read more
There's nothing like the first day of class to make you appreciate the difference between the equipment you end up using at schools and the equipment that you get to use on the job. For the month of January, I'm teaching a night class in bioinformatics at a local community college. We're introducing lots of web-based programs, and databases, and concentrating on the sorts of activities that biotechnology technicians are likely to use on the job. It's fun. It's practical. And I don't have to suffer through any lectures about the Semantic Web. I'm also getting reminded (although not ... Read more

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