Science education

One of the things that drives me crazy on occasion is nomenclature. Well, maybe not just nomenclature, it's really the continual changes in the nomenclature, and the time it takes for those changes to ripple through various databases and get reconciled with other kinds of information. And the realization that sometimes this reconciliation may never happen. One of the projects that I've been working on during the past couple of years has involved developing educational materials that use bioinformatics tools to look at the isozymes that metabolize alcohol. As part of this ... Read more
The first lab mouse I touched had soft white fur and a light pink tail. It looked cute enough to snuggle and take home as a pet and I was smitten. I slipped my hand into the cage, thinking the mouse would respond like my pet gerbils or my brother's pet rat. As my hand closed around its belly, that sweet little mouse sunk its teeth deep in my thumb. I screamed and shook my hand, smashing the mouse on the cement floor and killing it in an instant. It's been many years now since I've been doing anything with mice or rats. There's much more oversight these days, as DrugMonkey ... Read more
"Did you know," my friend whispered, "that the Humane Society funds terrorists?" I was stunned. What? That's crazy! I've adopted pets from there. No way! How could those be the same people?? My friend and I were suffering from "brand confusion." In business, this happens when different companies use similar names for their products in order to confuse the marketplace. In the animal rights movement, brand confusion is used to misdirect the funds that would otherwise help groups who do genuine humanitarian work. ... Read more
When female bloggers get death threats for comparing a Batman movie to a poor business plan, and friends can have their lab fire bombed for doing plant genetics, it's sometimes a little scary to step into the fray and take a stand on controversial issues. But that's the point. We have to speak out. Scary or not, unless we speak out against the animal rights terrorists who firebomb people's homes and harass ... Read more

This the third part of case study where we see what happens when high school students clone and sequence genomic plant DNA. In this last part, we use the results from an automated comparison program to determine if the students cloned any genes at all and, if so, which genes were cloned. (You can also read part I and part II.) Did they clone or not clone? That is the question. ... Read more

start all over again. MDRNA Inc., a Puget Sound area company formerly known as Nastech, announced on Monday that they'd be laying off 23 people including their president and chief business officer. This might not sound like a lot, but according to Joseph Tartakoff, from the Seattle PI, this brings the total number of layoffs up to 145 since November. These events present a challenge to those of us who teach in biotech programs or biotech-related fields. Nastech, the predecessor to MDRNA had been around for ... Read more
This the second part of three part case study where we see what happens when high school students clone and sequence genomic plant DNA. In this part, we do a bit of forensics to see how well their sequencing worked and to see if we can anything that could help them improve their results the next time they sequence. How well did the sequencing work? Anyone who sequences DNA needs to be aware of two kinds of problems that afflict their results. We can divide these into two ... Read more
What happens when high school students clone and sequence genomic DNA? Background DNA sequencing is a wonderful tool for discovery and a great technique for getting students involved in molecular science. This fall, Bio-Rad will officially begin selling their DNA cloning and sequencing kit. Now, students across the country will have the tools in hand to begin their own projects cloning and sequencing plant genes. Of course, without bioinformatics there's no way to know what's been cloned or sequenced. This is where we come in. As part of an ... Read more
Pfizer has pledged to donate up to $10,000 to the cause of science education, through Donorschoose.org, but only if enough of you, dear readers go to Big Think: Think Science Now and vote for your favorite video. If you're not familiar with Pfizer, they're a pretty well-known drug company. You probably read about one of their products every time you delete messages from your e-mail in-box. You don't even have to watch the videos, just vote. I strongly ... Read more
Are you curious about Second Life? Next week you can satisfy your curiosity and learn about the personal genomics frontier at the same time. Bertalan Meskó announced that Erin Davis (science writer) and Joyce Tung (human geneticist) from 23andMe will be giving a presentation next week in Second Life on personalized genetics. As travel costs rise and traveling becomes harder, I think we'll see many more things happening in alternative places like Second Life. ... Read more

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