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Fall 2013

Lecturing Faculty: Andrea Sequeira and Drew Webb

Laboratory Instructors: Melissa Beers, Tucker Crum and Adam Matthews
Study Group Leader/Course Peer Mentor: Adrienne Cheng

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

Welcome to BISC 219!
Please complete two brief surveys BEFORE the end of the first week of classes. They are about interest and concept familiarity with genetics. These surveys are found at: Exit Survey and Genetics Post-Test.
The password for the Post-Test survey is posted to the welcome message on the lab Sakai site. Thank you for your participation. You will get a few points for completing the entry and the exit versions of these surveys.

Over the course of the semester you will perform experiments that encompass both forward and reverse genetics approaches to answer complex questions about gene structure and function using the nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegans, as a model organism. You will gain familiarity with sophisticated molecular tools that are widely used to study gene location, regulation and expression.

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.

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 “hoard” 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 micropipettes for dispensing tiny quantities of solution very accurately. These micropipettes cost approximately $250 each. Please treat all of the equipment with care so that many classes of genetics students can use them.

BISC219, Genetics Lab, models investigative science. We cannot provide individualized materials for you to design experiments to investigate questions you come up with on your own because of cost, time constraints, and your inexperience in using some of the tools. Nevertheless, we want you to learn first hand this semseter how scientists use genetic principles and techniques to answer basic and nuanced questions about gene structure and function and how that knowledge can be applied more broadly and communicated to the scientific community. Although your instructors have defined the questions and designed the experiments that will be used to address those questions, you must be able to, at any point in an investigation, describe what you are doing (summary of the experimental design and where you are in the process of completing the experiments), why you are doing it (experimental question(s) and goals), and what it means if x happens versus y when you collect your data (have a hypothesis formulated from basic genetic principles or previous studies). Significant and continual outside study is required for those ambitions to be realized.

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. These labs are designed to follow guidelines found in the Wellesley College Lab Safety Manual. You can access this manual at: | 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.

Be forewarned that you are expected to attend lab every week and you may be expected to come into lab outside of normal hours to collect data or to continue an experiment. 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: Autosome or Sex Chromosome?

Series 2: Classical (Forward) Genetics: Locating & Characterizing a Gene Mutation Associated with a Abnormal Phenotype in C. elegans

Series 3: Reverse Genetics using RNA interference (RNAi)

You will be expected to keep a lab notebook of all the work done in these experiments. This notebook should be useful to you when you write your scientific paper on your work at the conclusion of each series of experiments. Protocols are provided in this wiki, but an outline or flow chart should be written by you before lab in your notebook. Do not just print and attach the directions found in the wiki. Prepare tables for results and do all calculations in your notebook.

Acquisition of scientific writing skills is a primary goal of the lab experience; therefore, writing about your experiments in the form of scientific research reports will constitute the bulk of your lab grade. The process of learning scientific writing will be aided through small practice assignments before you write a complete paper. There is a 5% per day penalty for late work. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, no work will be accepted for point credit more than one week after the due date. You must achieve a 60% or above in lab in order to pass the class.

Another good way to learn to write effectively about your work is to read well constructed research reports. Therefore, during the semester you will read several primary research articles that are related to your experiments.

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!