Biology seniors’ presentations include research in national genomics initiative

April 27, 2010

Among the 19 Biology majors presenting capstone research at the recent poster session, two students collaborated with and contributed to a national research initiative in genomics.

Seniors Julie Bryant and Jessica Penn, in separate capstone projects, conducted a genomic analysis of the Drosophila (fruit fly) Dot chromosome through the Genomics Education Partnership headquartered at Washington University in Saint Louis and funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The partnership provides opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in real genomics research. The students are assigned a raw DNA sequence which may be 50,000 base pairs or "letters" in length in which they identify and annotate genes, translating this vast string of DNA into biologically meaningful information.

“It’s pretty exciting,” says Susan Parrish, assistant professor of Biology, who initiated McDaniel’s participation in the national research project. “Students conduct actual research as part of the classroom lab instead of doing a canned lab experiment.”

Parrish’s students conduct the research as part of the lab for the genomics course she teaches. Some take the research beyond class and it becomes their capstone project. Either way, the students benefit.

“They have to think critically, and that sometimes flusters them at first,” Parrish says, explaining that she has no answer key and there are no “right” answers. But, they have the great opportunity to contribute to a scientific database, to present their research at national meetings and to be published authors of scientific papers.

“By the time they take the class, they are ready for the challenge,” Parrish says of the upper-level genomics course. “And they do very well with the research projects.”

For their capstone projects, other students explored topics as seemingly unrelated as breast cancer metastases, nutrient availability in roof runoff, blood lactate levels during exercise and pigment patterns in curly-tailed lizards.

Still, whatever the topic, exercising the particular logic involved in research and presenting that research in the manner of professional scientists gives these novice scientists an invaluable experience, according to Biology Professor Louise Paquin.

1. Henry Amankwah

Role of p53 in cigarette- induced endothelial cell apoptosis.

2. Julie Bryant (pictured) and Susan Parrish

Comparative genomic analysis of the Drosophila Dot chromosome.

3. Holly Debaugh

Exercise metabolism: A comparison of blood lactate levels during exercise using upper and lower extremities versus only lower extremities.

4. Lauren DiNatale
A spectrophotometric analysis of coloration of three species of curly-tail lizard.

5. Kay Dixon
The effects of different environmental factors on species diversity of Foraminiferal assemblages found on San Salvador, Bahamas.

6. Danielle Guiffre
The role of the transcription factor c-Myb in regulatory T-cells.

7. Natalie Hartman
Western blotting to detect the expression of cotransporters in cells infected with botulinum neurotoxin.

8. Sarah Hirsch
Reflectance spectrophotometry of four pigment morphotypes of Panther chameleons.

9. Adam Hudson

Nutrient availability in roof runoff of Camp Hashawha/Bear Branch Environmental Center.

10. Sepo Imakando

Runx2 activity in breast cancer cells.

11. Grace Kago
The Mimivirus L375 protein possesses intrinsic mRNA decapping activity.

12. Jana Langley
Progression of Perkinsus marinus infection in the Eastern Oyster, Crassostrea virginica.

13. Eric Lemmon

Computational design of a Diels-Alderase.

14. Anna Miglioretti
Improvement of transduction efficiency in mouse primary prostate cells

15. Tyler Mullan
The evolution of discrete pigment pattern elements and motifs in proposed phylogenetic relations of Leiocephalus.

16. Jessica Penn

Comparative analysis of the Drosophila dot chromosome.

17. Kaitlin Reynolds
Exercise metabolism: A comparison of oxygen consumption in lower extremity exercise vs. combined upper and lower extremity exercise on the Cybex Arc Trainer.

18. Alexander Vazzano, I-Chu Tseng and Chen-Yong Lin
Matriptase activation as a consequence of extracellular and intracellular acidosis.

19. Kelly Wunder
Cloning of the Mc1r gene sequence from Leiocephalus carinatus.