Genetics & Molecular Biology

i-8295f915da92d0ca11a67cd144057d90-rhodies.jpgThe first research assignment for our Alaska NSF Chautauqua course has been posted. Your task is to find a wound-inducible plant gene, learn something about it, and post a description in the comment section. We've already had one excellent answer, but I know there are at least 54 wound- ... Read more
Is the case for open access truly "open and shut"? Will open access impede science by limiting genetic studies with families?


Microsoft's brave new world The April ALPSP conference began with songs for the open access choir. Microsoft's Lee Dirks painted visions of a utopian future where everything will be open, labs shall be judged by the worthiness of their databases, and even scientists will learn to share. According to Dirks, "Open ... Read more
An introduction to our Alaskan NSF Chautauqua course and a pre-course assignment. I don't know how well this will work, but I thought it might be interesting this year to experiment with blogging about our course and sharing some of our experiences with the rest of the world. Here's your chance readers, if you'd like to do some of the assignments, you are very welcome to follow along and give it a try.


I'm not likely to get all the assignments or course info posted on-line, but since we have some constraints with photocopying, we also ... Read more
Sometimes I think the field of biology suffers from collective amnesia. Like the girl in the movie "50 first dates," we discover things over and over and every time we find something, we forget that it's ever been found before. This is especially true if a phenomenon has been discovered in a biological subfield, like microbiology or virology. Over 26 years ago, microbiologists found that Bacillus subtilis uses different DNA signals (alternative promoters) to control the expression of genes related to development (1). Now, it turns out that this phenomenon is widely ... Read more
`When I make a word do a lot of work like that,' said Humpty Dumpty, `I always pay it extra.' -Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
In biology, we often ask our words do a lot of work. In what other field would we write direction like this "Transfer 10 lambda of lambda phage DNA into a cuvette and determine the lambda max."Read more
In the effort to help us define a few basic concepts, PZ started out by giving us a nice simple definition of a gene, but as he, rightly noted:
I tell you right now that if I asked a half dozen different biologists to help me out with this, they'd rip into it and add a thousand qualifiers, and it would never get done.
Well, okay, technically speaking he didn't ask me for help. But, since I'm a ... Read more
The American Society for Human Genetics is sponsoring the second annual DNA Day Essay contest. If you are a high school teacher here's your chance to combine an interesting assignment along with a contest. This year's essay questions are:
  • If you could be a human genetics researcher, what would you study and why?
  • In what ways will knowledge of genetics and genomics make changes to health and health care in the US possible?
The rules are here at I also have an animated tutorial ... Read more
Her name is Flora and she is a single parent. Born in Miami, Flora moved to Chester, UK, as a toddler. Now, she's almost 8 years old and starting a family, all on her own. Literally. Four eggs have hatched and another eight are ready to go. Yet, Flora has never gotten cozy with another male dragon.


How did Flora accomplish this feat and how do ... Read more
Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor (dubbed the Tripoli six) may be executed soon by the Libyan government for the crime of deliberately infecting over 400 children with HIV. If they did infect the children, this would be a horrendous crime. If they did not infect the children, it's the Libyan government that will be killing innocent people. The clock is ticking. Some of you might be wondering (I know I was): How exactly is molecular sequence data being used to solve the crime? Why are scientists and science bloggers claiming that the ... Read more
In which I present a quick guide for the omically challenged and a defense of 'arth and "ome." Other SciBloggers have shared their thoughts on the use of ome here and here. Sometimes I get frustrated too, with the way language is abused and tweaked by those around me. So many word pairs that once made phrases—;log in, data set, file name, set up, and pick up—;have been condensed into single words, that I've had to ... Read more

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