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Undergraduate Research Highlighted In DNA And Cell Biology Journal

September 16, 2010

Not only do undergraduate students gain valuable hands-on experience by participating in scientific research projects, but they also make meaningful contributions, examples of which are highlighted in the current special issue of DNA and Cell Biology, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The issue is available free online.

This special issue features a collection of papers reporting on successful research projects in which undergraduate students played a significant role, “and undoubtedly learned much in the process,” writes Jo Handelsman, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of DNA and Cell Biology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University (New Haven, CT), in an accompanying Editorial. Dr. Handelsman notes that “novices bring a fresh perspective” and their “lack of entrenched bias can bring new insights to old problems.”

“This issue of DNA and Cell Biology is a testament to the creativity and hard work that undergraduates invest in research projects. And implicit in these publications is evidence of the power of research as an instrument of education,” says Dr. Handelsman.

Included in the issue is a paper by Cristina Cardemil and colleagues from Swarthmore College (Pennsylvania) and DuPont Company (Wilmington, DE), describing the development of a bioluminescence-based test that uses a bacterium to measure the amount of ammonia and phosphate in water samples. The researchers showed that this method yields as good or better results as commonly used analytical chemistry test kits that have limited sensitivity.

Laura Bergner and coworkers from Davidson College (North Carolina) authored an article on their research to map and clone a mutant gene associated with male sterility in fruit flies. In Drosophila carrying this mutant gene, sperm begin to form too early, before chromosome replication has taken place. The authors identified a novel protein coded for by the gene of interest.

Exploring the regulation of telomerase, a protein that maintains the integrity of the ends of mammalian chromosomes and is typically silenced in normal human cells but reactivated in 90% of cancers, Diana Tran and coauthors from Harvey Mudd College (Claremont, CA), identified a gene region that is highly conserved among mammalian species and may play an important role in regulating telomerase activity.

Irene Cho and colleagues from University of Maryland Baltimore County and University of Alabama at Birmingham studied the effects of variation in the fruit fly S6 kinase gene””which appears to regulate fat storage””on the metabolism, fitness, and immune system health, and life span of Drosophila.

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