Teaching

Biology 3492: Laboratory Experiments with Eukaryotic Microbes: I teach this course annually during spring semesters (10-16 students/session).  I developed this upper division lab course to instruct students in the uses of current cellular and molecular biology techniques as they participate in original research projects. The course utilizes the protozoan Tetrahymena to demonstrate how model eukaryotic organisms are employed to make novel biological discoveries.  In each offering of the course, the students investigate selected biological processes and receive diverse training in modern scientific approaches including bioinformatics, molecular cloning, gene expression strategies, and fluorescence microscopy. For example, in spring 2005, students investigated proteins of the importin alpha family encoded within the Tetrahymena genome, which are predicted to be involved in the selective import of macromolecules into nuclei. Each student selected a candidate gene and examined its expression and the encoded protein’s sub-cellular localization. The original research performed by these students earned them collective authorship of a scientific manuscript (Malone et al., 2008), providing proof-in-principle that students in a classroom setting can perform rigorous analyses of individual gene families.  Similarly, more recent offerings of this course have focused on the nucleolus and the cell’s coritcal structure underlying the plasma membrane, leading to manuscripts that I expect to submit by spring 2017.

By the end of the semester, the students also receive experience in both written and oral scientific communication skills. In a typical semester, the students present their research in two oral presentations, the final one describing a poster at the spring undergraduate research symposium along with students engaged in independent research.  In this writing intensive course, each student writes up his or her cumulative results, including background information obtained from assigned and student-identified scientific studies, and “publishes” them on the Student/UnPublished DataBase (SUPRDB -- www.SUPRDB.org). This creates a full research process from hypothesis formation to data generation and interpretation to results dissemination. This database links to the Tetrahymena Genome Database (www.ciliate.org) so that students can see that their discoveries are communicated to the larger research community.

Biology 3371: Eukaryotic Genomes: I have taught this course annually or bi-annually since 2002. This upper division lecture course focuses on our current knowledge of molecular genetics and genomics. Because this is a rapidly advancing field, I teach this course exclusively from primary literature sources, without an assigned text book. In this way, I can incorporate the most current information. To equip students to read original science articles, My course includes a discussion section in which students carefully review recent scientific publications that are related to the course lecture material. The students learn how to analyze primary scientific data and become intimately familiar with the scientific process. These exercises foster the scientific literacy of the students, one of my key goals of the course.  Each course comprises two sections of 15 to 20 students, which allows close interactions between student and professor.

In this course, I demonstrate that genetics and genomics is becoming an informational as well as an experimental science by introducing the students to basic bioinformatics tools and databases that will be useful resources for their future careers in research and medicine. To reinforce the use of these tools, the final exam for the course is a take-home assignment in which the students are given questions for which they must look-up primary research available on public databases, build a model of genetic regulation, then defend it from the data. This assignment brings together many of the core concepts I teach and allows me to assess whether each student can apply what they have learned to the interpretation of actual data. 

Biology 548: Nucleic Acids; taught annually during fall semesters.  This 3 unit course is a core part of the graduate curriculum of many Ph.D. programs (e.g., Molecular Genetics and Genomics, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Developmental Biology). From 2005 to present, I have presented three lectures focusing on DNA repair and recombination, DNA rearrangements, and transposons. I also led faculty-student discussion groups in this course from 2001 to 2005.

Biology 5284: Current Research in Chromatin, Epigenetics and Nuclear Organization; offered annually each fall and spring semester.  I have been a co-organizer for this multi-lab journal club with Dr. Sarah Elgin 2002-present.  This course provides an important forum for several laboratories with a common interest in epigenetics and chromosome biology to meet and discuss ideas and recent research results.  This has been offered as a graduate journal club and has attracted students from outside the core group who would like to learn more about research in this area. Students taking this course for credit must present a research paper during that semester.

Biology 181: Freshman Seminar in Biology: This 2 unit seminar course organized by Prof. Paul Stein brings in different faculty to expose freshman to the scope of research topics under investigation at Washington University. From fall 2004-present, I have given 1 of 14 lectures in which I discuss the role of model organisms in research (~50 students/semester).