National Genomes Conference for Biology Educators Held at CSU Dominguez Hills
California State University, Dominguez Hills hosted the weeklong workshop “Silencing Genomes” June 1-5 to bring high school, college, and university educators the latest information about RNA interference (RNAi), a revolutionary discovery with broad implications for biology and medicine that was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physiology/Medicine.
The workshop was funded by the National Science Foundation’s Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (NSF CCLI) program. During the workshop, participants were taught the lab techniques and background needed to bring RNAi into their own lectures and laboratories. Today's biology students will face the challenge of unraveling the biological meaning of the millions of genome sequences that are rapidly accumulating in DNA databases. RNAi provides a powerful tool to move directly from DNA sequence to the analysis of gene function in living organisms and viruses.
The curriculum demonstrated at the workshop included a series of experiments that explore RNAi in the model eukaryotic organism, C. elegans (worm). Lab work began with observation of mutant phenotypes (genetic traits in an organism) and basic worm husbandry, then progressed to simple methods to induce RNAi and more advanced experimentation. The workshop culminated with open-ended methods that support student projects.
Dr. John Carvalho, assistant professor of biology, was initially approached by Dr. Laura Robles, interim dean of the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences, with the idea of offering a RNAi workshop on campus. After consulting his colleagues, many of whom have an interest in RNAi, it was decided that the national conference should be held at CSU Dominguez Hills.
“This was the first workshop of its kind that introduced RNAi as a methodology that can be used in the classroom setting,” says Carvalho, who has a doctorate in molecular genetics from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a post-doctoral fellowship in virology from Harvard Medical School. “Each day, participants were introduced to new tools and methods and the necessary background in RNAi and C. elegans biology so that they could explain this biology to undergraduate students. Similarly, participants became proficient in specific experimental protocols so that they could pass this information on to students in the future.”
- Brenda Knepper and Joanie Harmon
Photo above: Educators from the Cold Harbor Spring Laboratory DNA Learning Center (CHSL) presented methods of teaching RNA interference at CSU Dominguez Hills
Pictured, L-R: Dr. Tedi Setton, middle school educator, CHSL; Dr. Jermel Watkins, high school educator, CHSL; and Dr. John Carvalho, assistant professor of biology, CSU Dominguez Hills
Photo by Joanie Harmon