Thursday, December 4, 2014

Gene Research Conference at Vol State in January

Databases of gene sequences are like a precious metal waiting to be mined by researchers. In January the Math and Science Division will be hosting a conference for educators to show refined techniques for using those databases to look for similarities in genes, inferring protein structure, location and function within a cell. This is exciting stuff for folks in biology. And it may mean a change in how we think about life on Earth.

"You're talking about millions of species on this planet," said associate professor Parris Powers. "Many species have 10 to 40 thousand different genes that code for as many as 100,000 proteins. This new research frontier of genomic and proteomic annotation are allowing biologists to reclassify organisms according to genomic characteristics."

That could mean a change in how we organize and classify the plant and animal world, which is a big deal for all of us.

Powers is organizing the January 8 and 9 Microbial Genome Annotation Network (MGAN) Workshop at Vol State. It will bring in 40 science educators from nine states. The goal is for the group to find new ways to teach biology utilizing gene databases to do genomic and proteomic annotation as problem based learning. Some of the members will be from the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative (CCURI) grant program. Others will come from colleges and universities across the country.

Vol State students are also taking part in the workshop. They are part of a new undergraduate research group that will begin exploring genomic annotation at Vol State in the spring semester.

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