Science education

i-f0314c04246a8eb4def9774a4817497e-RonM.jpgWe often see memorials written about famous scientists, but we rarely see them about the people who work in the background to help people learn the science in the first place. Ron was one of those people whose work inspired teachers and helped spark excitement in science students throughout the world. I just learned last week that Ron passed away and I'm still in a state of shock. ... Read more
When in doubt, turn to the internet. In a couple of weeks, I'm going to start teaching my first on-line course. So far, I've been preparing by:
  1. learning how to use Blackboard
  2. getting a subscription to iFinch so we can do bioinformatics in style, and share data and other files
  3. getting a microphone and some software for making video podcasts
But, since this is brand new and I'm used to seeing students face-to-face, I have a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I do not want to be one of those people who simply ... Read more
You can get a jump on the Darwin Day festivities. Once again the Alliance for Science is sponsoring an essay contest for Darwin Day. If you download their suggestions for good essay writing, you can get your essay done over winter break and have a good crack at winning on those cash prizes!
The Alliance for Science is pleased to announce our second annual National High School Essay Contest. We invite interested students to submit essays of up to 1,000 words on one of two topics -- Climate and Evolution or ... Read more
Last week I posted an image with two molecules (below the fold), one protein and one nucleic acid, and asked you about the probability of finding similar molecules in different species. You gave me some interesting answers. DAG made me clarify my question by asking what I meant by "similarity." I was wondering whether I would be likely to find a statistically relevant match by doing a BLAST search and I hadn't really thought about the cutoff values. I decided to guess and say that that the protein would be about 30% similar and the nucleic acid about 60 ... Read more
This is a fun puzzle. The pink molecule is a protein and the other molecule is a nucleic acid.
i-5c8403a3a835e477cc79b9d41e34f702-Picture 2.png
If I gave you the amino acid sequence of this protein, or the nucleotide sequence of this nucleic acid, what is the probability of finding a similar sequence in a different species (picked at random)? A. High B. Medium C. Low D. It ... Read more
Judging from their groans and moans, I think sometimes that it's hard for kids to grow up with two scientists as parents. Still, over the years our kids have come to accept (and ignore) that we seem to babble in some kind of strange code peppered with discussions of DNA, software, and lately something called "Next Gen." We'll cook dinner and start reminiscing about PV=nRT. Our youngest daughter will try to mix water and oil for brownies and one of us will contribute cheerfully: "Like ... Read more
i-e3899186ef576991098fed4ff62eab0f-small_dice.gif'Tis the holiday season and, according to ancient lore, the time when miraculous events are most likely to take place. One of those well-known and miraculous events of ancient days was the birth of a son to a young girl, who, although she was married (Okay, I'm not sure about this part of the story) she was said to be a virgin and the birth to be a miracle. Hmmm. ... Read more

Which read(s):

  • 1. contain either a SNP (a single nucleotide polymorphism) or a position where different members of a multi-gene family have a different base?
  • C
  • 2. doesn't have any DNA?
  • B
  • 3. is a PCR product?
  • A, B, and C.  All of three reads were obtained by sequencing PCR products, generated with the same set of primers.
The quality plots that I refer to are ... Read more
Since DNA diagnostics companies seem to be sprouting like mushrooms after the rain, it seemed like a good time to talk about how DNA testing companies decipher meaning from the tests they perform. Last week, I wrote about interpreting DNA sequence traces and the kind of work that a data analyst or bioinformatics technician does in a DNA diagnostics company. As you might imagine, looking at every single DNA sample by eye gets rather tiring. One of the things that informatics companies ( ... Read more
As many of you know, I'm a big fan of do-it-yourself biology. Digital biology, the field that I write about, is particularly well-suited to this kind of fun and exploration. Last week, I wrote some instructions for making a phylogenetic tree from mitochondrial genomes. This week, we'll continue our analysis. I wrote this activity, in part, because of this awful handout that my oldest daughter brought home last year. She presented me with an overly photocopied paper that showed ... Read more

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