With much of the continental U.S. suffering from a sub zero temperatures, a group of Bio-Link instructors traveled to sunny Puerto Rico for fun in the sun with warmth and genomics.
The Universidad del Turabo recently hosted the weeklong workshop Genomic Approaches in Biosciences, an NSF-funded project from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's Dolan DNA Learning Center (DNALC). Dr. Jose Perez-Jimenez is the PI of a subaward from DNALC intended to increase the training of community college and secondary school teachers in the area of emerging genomics and bioinformatics.
The workshop was conducted both in Spanish and in English. Dr. Tom Tubon from Madison Area Technical College in Madison, WI led off the week with a discussion of the DNA Subway, a bioinformatics platform designed by DNALC. The Subway is divided into four "lines", the Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green Lines. Each line has been carefully designed to enable users to mine data for specific plant genes. Dr. Tubon engaged participants with a lively discussion of the Red Line, which is a powerful gene annotation tool.
Keith Allen from Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Lexington, KY led a discussion of the Green and Yellow lines, followed by a presentation of his student-lead undergraduate research program. His students have been characterizing the gel from the Aloe vera plant, with an interest in essential oils. Dr. Deborah Davis also from Bluegrass Community and Technical College led a discussion of RNAi.
Dr. Perez-Jimenez instructed students in the laboratory where they did RNAi experiments with the roundworm, C. elegans. Genes of interest (GOI) are inserted into a bacterial plasmid vector and the recombinant plasmid is transformed into E. coli. The bacteria is "fed" to the worm. The worm takes up the plasmid DNA with the GOI and becomes the target of the RNAi pathway, which essentially turns off the gene.
Eighteen participants from Puerto Rico secondary and postsecondary schools were in attendance. Universidad del Turabo is located in Curabo, Puerto Rico.