This course is designed to familiarize students with current research techniques in molecular biology, biochemistry, and genetics. A variety of methods and approaches will be applied in a series of short projects, primarily using E. coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae (budding yeast) as model systems. Students will gain hands-on experience employing recombinant DNA, microbiology, protein biochemistry, and other methods to answer basic research questions. This course provides excellent preparation for students planning to conduct independent research at the undergraduate level (MB&B401/402) and beyond.
Basic genetics states that individuals with different DNA sequences express different traits. However, a large number of permanent and heritable changes to cells and organisms occur in the absence of changes to DNA sequence. Such epigenetic mechanisms explain a variety of disparate observations, including the ability of a zygote to develop into dozens of distinct cell types in multicellular organisms using one common DNA blueprint, the observation that grandchildren of individuals subject to famine have higher rates of metabolic defects, and the ability of neurons to mediate formation of long-term memories. In this course we will use a variety of examples from cell biology and genetics to examine the template-dependent processes governing the perpetuation of discrete phenotypes. Topics will include the molecular biology of prions (infectious proteins) and environment-induced alterations in gene expression that may be transmitted to offspring.
This course of weekly discussions of current research is for students who have completed the MB&B or BIOL introductory series. Discussions will be informal in nature and cover topics of current interest in molecular biology and biochemistry, emphasizing possibilities for future research areas for the students.