Science education

One of most wonderful things about the Internet has been the emergence of research projects that involve the general public. Universities like Cornell, Kansas University, and the University of Minnesota, to name a few, have established web sites and on-line databases that encourage both students and amateur biologists to participate in biological field studies. Not only do these projects extend the potential for good science by collecting more data, they give visibility to the research process and allow the public to take ownership and contribute to the store of scientific knowledge. ... Read more
Like biology, all bioinformatics is based on the idea that living things shared a common ancestor. I have posted, and will post other articles that test that notion, but for the moment, we're going to use that idea as a starting point in today's quest. If we agree that we have a common ancestor, then we can use that idea as a basis to ask some interesting questions about our genomes. For, example, we know that genomes change over time - we've looked at single nucleotide changes here and ... Read more
We heard quite a bit about rainforest destruction in the 80's and 90's. Even the Grateful Dead joined the efforts to raise awareness and gather support for rain forest preservation. In the past, the Dead stayed away from political activism because (quoting Jerry Garcia):
Power is a scary thing. When you feel that you are close to it, you want to make sure that it isn't used for misleading. So all this time we've avoided making any statements about politics, about alignments of any sort.
But the Dead decided deforestation was too big of an issue to ... Read more
Did HIV become resistant to Atazanavir because of a genetic change? Was that genetic change inherited? Did HIV evolve? Can we explain why genetic changes at specific sites might help HIV escape the effects of the drug? Let's find out. All of the sequences in the image below (except for the first) come from HIV strains that were isolated from patients who took Atazanavir and no other protease inhibitors. All of the strains of HIV from patients were resistant to the drug. If an amino acid is different from other strains, the color at that position is changed. ... Read more
Have you ever wondered how people actually go about sequencing a genome? If they're sequencing a chicken genome, do they raise chickens in the lab and get DNA from the eggs? Does the DNA sequence come out in one piece? Why is there so much talk about computers? What are Phred, Phrap, and Consed? What is the Golden Path? Wonder no more! You too, can take a virtual tour of the Washington University Genome Center. I found this really excellent series of short videos that ... Read more
In which we see the results and come to our own conclusions. If you want to let other people tell you what's right and what's wrong, they will surely do so. Turn on the TV and hordes of happy actors bounce around, only too happy to help you purchase the right deodorant. Open your e-mail and everyone wants to share the best on-line pharmacy and investment guide. Ugh. I prefer making my own decisions, thank you very much. So, I want to give you a chance to look at the data and decide for yourself, if the data show HIV protease sequences changing over ... Read more
Let the experiment begin. We're experimenting with HIV in this series. And yes, you can try this at home! If you want to see where we've been and get an idea where we're going, here are the links. Part I. Meet HIV and learn how we're going to use it look at evolution. An introduction to the experiment and a link to a short flash movie on HIV. Part II. Instructions for doing the experiment. Part III. Look at the ... Read more
The past few Fridays, we've been comparing human mitochondrial DNA with the mitochondrial DNA of different apes. We started doing this here, where you can find directions for getting started. And, we've found some interesting things. In this installment, we found that humans have practically an entire mitochondrial genome stuck in chromosome 17. ... Read more
When can a really bad virus be used to do something good? i-a6550bc9f8fd2b4ba98054d13cd679e5-hiv_photo.jpg When we can use it to learn. The human immunodeficiency virus, cause of AIDS, scourge of countries, and recent focus of ScienceBlogs; like humans, evolves. As one ... Read more
During these past couple of weeks, we've been comparing mitochondrial DNA sequences from humans and great apes, in order to see how similar the sequences are. Last week, I got distracted by finding a copy of a human mitochondrial genome, that somehow got out of a mitochondria, and got stuck right inside of chromosome 17! The existence of this extra mitochondrial sequence probably complicates some genetic analyses. One of my readers also asked an interesting question about whether apes have ... Read more

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