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Lycoming College hosts national genome consortium workshop

Lycoming College hosts national genome consortium workshop

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Lycoming College hosted 50 faculty and students for a National Science Foundation (NSF) and Howard Hughes Medical Institute-funded workshop for the Genome Consortium for Active Teaching-NextGen Sequencing group (GCAT-SEEK) June 2-6. This consortium is funded through the NSF’s Research Collaboration Network for Undergraduate Biology Education Program. Participants came to campus from as far away as California, Minnesota and Texas. Jeff Newman, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of biology at Lycoming, is a co-principal investigator on the five-year, $445,000 grant.

“The objectives of the consortium are to bring the most recent DNA analysis technologies into the undergraduate curriculum and to build a community of faculty with expertise in this rapidly developing field,” Newman said.

The workshop featured a keynote address on the incorporation of authentic research into undergraduate courses by Regina Lamendella, Ph.D., of Juniata College. An advance preview was given by Jessamina Blum, Ph.D., managing editor of CourseSource, a new web-based venue at the University of Minnesota for the peer-review and publication of novel curriculum modules. Wade Roberts, Ph.D., and James Roney, Ph.D., of Juniata College led a discussion of the ethical, legal and social implications of DNA analysis.

The majority of the workshop consisted of five, half-day sessions in which the participants worked in smaller groups to learn how to prepare samples for the new DNA sequence analysis instruments, and how to perform the data analysis when their data is ready.

Newman led the group studying DNA from purified bacteria, while Lamendella’s group focused on analyzing DNA isolated directly from the environment, such as soil, creeks and sewage treatment plants. Vincent Buonaccorsi, Ph.D., of Juniata College led a group learning how to analyze the DNA of higher organisms such as plants, worms, insects, fish and mammals. The group led by Mark Peterson, Ph.D., of Juniata College and Arthur Hunt, Ph.D., of the University of Kentucky investigated how to identify just the parts of the DNA that are active at any given time.

“Most of the sessions included laboratory-based experimental work and bioinformatics, a growing field in which one used sophisticated tools to analyze biological data,” Newman said.

Students assisted with each of the sessions. Helping with the bacterial genomics section were Lycoming students Samantha Stropko ’15, Sayre, Pa., and Shannon Pipes ’15, of Asbury, N.J., both of whom are conducting research in Newman’s lab this summer.

During the evening sessions, participants developed curriculum modules to incorporate data generated in the workshop into their courses. The Curriculum and Assessment Sessions were led by Nancy Trun, Ph.D., of Duquesne University and Tammy Tobin, Ph.D., of Susquehanna University. The participants then presented their curriculum modules to the rest of the group on the morning of the last day. After the curriculum development sessions, participants shared their research activities at scientific poster sessions and networked each evening during a social reception.

Lycoming College is a four-year, residential liberal arts and sciences school dedicated to the undergraduate education of 1,400 students. Its rigorous academic program, vibrant residential community and supportive faculty foster successful student outcomes. Lycoming offers 36 academic majors and is recognized as a Tier 1 institution by U.S. News & World Report. Founded in 1812 and located near the banks of the Susquehanna River in Williamsport, Pa., Lycoming is one of the 50 oldest colleges in the nation. For more information, visit