USD hosts gene explorer workshops this summer

USD hosts gene explorer workshops this summer The University of South Dakota School of Medicine sponsored three week-long "gene explorer" workshops last month in hopes of boosting interest in medical professions.

Three separate gene orientated workshops were held in June; one geared toward middle school students, one for high school students and one for teachers.

Students from all over the state were nominated by their science teachers to learn "hands on" laboratory skills in molecular biology and DNA cloning using research grade laboratory equipment. Lindsey Isaacson of Vermillion was among the students taking part in the high school program June 4-8. Dr. Robert Noiva, USD associate professor of basic biomedical sciences, led the workshops.

During the workshops, each student cloned the "glow in the dark" gene from jellyfish and put that gene into a bacterium. The result of their experiment was the production of bacteria that glow in the dark. Students were then able to use the bacteria to produce large amounts of "glow in the dark" protein.

"These are the same skills that scientists use to clone new genes, such as cloning herbicide resistance genes into new corn hybrids," Noiva said of the experiment.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Science Foundation provided financial support for the gene explorer program. Officials are planning to run a similar program next summer.

Noiva hopes that enrichment programs such as this will generate South Dakota students with interests and skills that will enable them to pursue careers in molecular biology, bioengineering or medicine, and to provide science teachers with the tools and skills necessary to incorporate molecular biology laboratories into their classrooms.

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