David Aiello

Project Proposal

The primary goal of this project is to increase the understanding and use of digital tools for molecular biology and digital collaboration by undergraduates at AC. The focus of this project is to introduce these topics into BIOL 228 Genetics. Genetics is a core course in the Department of Biology that routinely achieves maximum enrollments. Because of student demand for the course, two sections of the course are offered in alternate years. Current enrollment for Fall 2014 is 27 students split between two lab sections. Historical enrollments the last two years are: 23 (Fall ‘13) and 30 (Fall ’12).

To achieve the goal of increasing the use, and understanding, of digital tools used in molecular biology, students in BIOL 228 Genetics will receive instruction in how to use the molecular analysis software MacVector (described in more detail below in Budget Justification). Introduction to the use of the software will be coupled with a more detailed introduction to the online Saccharomyces Genome Database hosted by Stanford University. Previous iterations of the course gave students a cursory introduction to this resource, however retrieval and analysis of DNA sequences using MacVector will require a more deliberate walkthrough of how to search and retrieve sequences from the database.

Historically the instructor has conducted all molecular analysis of DNA sequences and design of PCR primers outside of class. Ready-made reagents were then provided to the students. Course redesign will incorporate the design of these materials in the context of the lab period. DNA analysis and primer design activities will occur early in the semester, within the first two weeks of the semester. Later in the semester (last month), additional DNA analysis of results obtained from projects occurring in the lab will occur. These activities will include additional retrieval of DNA sequences from online databases and multiple sequence alignments with DNA sequencing results obtained by the class.

To achieve the goal of increasing an understanding and use of tools for digital collaboration, I will create a PBWorks Wiki page for the Genetics class. This idea is born out of a similar strategy used by colleagues at other institutions (Pamela Hanson at Birmingham-Southern College and Mary Miller at Rhodes College) and introduced to me an NSF funded digital pedagogies workshop last fall. Each fall, students in the Genetics course are both creating novel data based on their own experimental design for one project and separately contributing to ongoing efforts in my research lab with a second project. The goal of establishing a PBWorks Wiki is to establish, and then maintain, a digital archive accessible by students in the course of previous students’ experiences on the project.

Archived will be student proposals, data collection, and final reporting efforts. While the broad goals of each project are the same each semester, the specific project details and outcomes are unique, thus previous students’ work, successes and failures, can serve to guide future students in the course.

Additional Funding

The use of the MacVector software will not require a de novo purchase of new software copies. By maintaining a current individual license (renewed annually), the vendor will provide unlimited free teaching licenses that allow the software to be installed on individual student’s Mac computers or on the Macs in the Keck Computer Lab in the IDEA Center. Funds are requested at $300/year to maintain the active license. Total funding request for three years = $900.


Aiello Genetics Lab Wiki


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