Gene Stream: Project Overview

  A cross-curricular research platform supporting inquiry-based learning  
We have developed an extraordinary research and teaching collaboration, the "Gene Stream", allowing students to carry investigative projects from the research laboratory into the teaching laboratory, and from one course to another. "Bridge projects" allow students to adopt a gene or gene product of interest, making it the focus of independent classroom research projects within courses offered by Biology, Chemistry, and Bioinformatics. In brief, students can enter the Gene Stream from numerous points: through their summer research experience, or through any of a number of courses in the biology, chemistry or computer science departments. In the Bioinformatics course, students can find a gene of interest by homology search, annotate its sequence, and research its cellular activities in other organisms via the literature and web based genetic archives.

Through Bioanalytical Chemistry, students can isolate and purify proteins by electrophoretic techniques, perform limited in-gel proteolysis and analyze the resulting protein fragments by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) using an electrospray ionization (ESI) ion-trap mass spectrometer. The resulting protein fingerprint data will be compared to protein databases using the Protein Prospector database-searching program in order to identify the corresponding genomic sequence. Within our Molecular Genetics course, students can take genes identified through Bioinformatics or Proteomics, design PCR primers, amplify, clone and sequence the gene. Working in small teams, students can have their choice of performing targeted gene disruption, antisense knockdown or GFP tagging and fluorescence localization. As we develop and implement the Gene Stream, we hope to serve as a resource for investigators at other undergraduate institutions.