BISC 219/2009

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Wellesley College BISC 219 Genetics

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Fall 2009

Laboratory Instructors: Melissa Beers, Tucker Crum and Andrea Sequeira

Lecture: T/F 11:10-12:20
Lab: M 1:30-5; T 12:30-4; W 2:15-5:45; Th 1-4:30; F 1-4:30

Welcome to BISC 219!

Over the course of the semester, you will perform experiments that use two model organisms: the nematode worm , Caenorhabditis elegans and the plant, Nicotiana tabacum. Your experiments will explore gene regulation and expression in each of these systems and will use some of the most important techniques in molecular biology.

The success of your experiments is largely in your own hands. Please read through the entire set of experiments before beginning a lab series and read again, carefully, the portion to be done in lab that day before starting your work. Try to avoid the “hands-on- brain-off” pitfall common to lab students; instead, think as well as do. Be aware of what is actually happening in your tube during each step of a protocol. Know where you are in the stepwise progression toward answering your experimental questions as you complete each part of an experiment or series. Success in these labs will depend on paying meticulous attention to detail and on following instructions precisely. It is equally important to understand the conceptual basis of your experimental design and its goals. By doing all this, you will eventually see the results of your faith and hard work: you will have modeled the way science is done by scientists.

Many of the reagents used in these experiments are expensive and they require many hours of preparation. In using them, please exercise care and common sense to avoid contaminating reagent stocks and to make sure you don’t “hord” shared reagents. A considerable amount of money has been spent to provide enough equipment of adequate sophistication so that each student will have “hands-on” experience. For example, you will be using micropipets for dispensing tiny quantities of solution very accurately. These micropipets cost approximately $250 each. Please treat all of the equipment with care so that many classes of genetics students can use them.

At times you will be required to follow specific instructions concerning the handling or disposal of materials. Please obey these instructions precisely, both for your own protection and to comply with established guidelines for use of these reagents. You should read the Wellesley College Safety Information at: This site has specific safety information related to the type of experiments you will perform. There are times when you should wear gloves in lab to prevent contaminating your samples and also to prevent your samples from contaminating you. Please remember, however, that your gloves can be easily contaminated if you touch your face, hair, etc. and that you can contaminate door-knobs, computer keyboards, phones or other non-lab equipment with your gloves. Change your gloves often and never touch non-lab equipment (such as computer key boards) with gloved hands unless specifically directed to do so.

On occasion you will be expected to come into lab outside of normal hours to examine the progress of your experiment or to inoculate cultures in preparation for the following lab. We have tried to keep the extra time to a minimum but please understand that BISC219 lab is an ambitious program in genetics requiring your full commitment and cooperation.

The three series of experiments you will perform during the semester are:
Series 1:

Series 2:

Series 3: Plant Genetic Engineering

There is an extensive and helpful BISC219 course website at: The lab procedures section of this course website contains much useful information and links to relevant reference materials. Make sure you visit this section often at:

You will be expected to keep a lab notebook of all the work done in these experiments. This notebook will not be collected or graded but should be useful to you when you write your scientific paper on your work at the conclusion of each series of experiments. Protocols will be provided in lab but an outline should be found in your notebook along with all results and calculations.

Acquisition of scientific writing skills is a primary goal of the lab experience; therefore, three papers will constitute the bulk of your lab grade. The format for the papers is described in the pages that follow. Please heed these instructions as well as any additional information provided by your lab instructor. The papers are due in lab, generally a week after the conclusion of each series of experiments. There is a 5% per day penalty for late work. All major assignments must be completed. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, no work will be accepted for point credit more than one week after the due date.

In addition to writing scientific papers, you will read and discuss three primary research articles that are related to your experiments. These discussions will take place during the last lab of each series. A copy of the first research paper to be discussed is included at the end of the lab manual. You will be directed to electronic versions of the other papers. The discussions will be graded.

We sincerely hope that you find your introduction to the world of genetics both exciting and intellectually stimulating. As always, we appreciate comments and suggestions for improving the program. Good luck and have fun!