DOE selects UMKC School of Biological Sciences to participate in ‘Adopt a Genome’ project

U.S. Dept. of Energy program offers students opportunity for hands-on genetic sequencing experience

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Biological Sciences was recently selected as one of only 20 universities nationwide to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) 2010-2011 Joint Genome Institute (JGI) Education Program. The program, supported by DOE’s Office of Science, provides opportunities for select colleges and universities across the country to “adopt” bacterial genomes, such as those sequenced as part of the Genomic Encyclopedia for Bacteria and Archaea (GEBA) project, for analysis.

“We had to go through a highly competitive application process in order to be selected for this program,” said Lawrence A. Dreyfus, Ph.D., Professor and Dean of the School of Biological Sciences. “We were chosen based on our research strengths in microbiology and bioinformatics and our commitment to undergraduate science education.”

The GEBA project is aimed at systematically filling in the gaps in genomic sequencing along the bacterial and archaeal (a specific group of single-celled microorganisms) branches of the tree of life. The “Adopt a GEBA Genome” Education Program makes available a selection of recently sequenced genomes for use in undergraduate courses.

“The microbes that are part of the JGI program are not disease-causing species, but are those of interest to the Department of Energy, presumably something that is important for generating energy in a sustainable way,” said Alexander Idnurm, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Cell Biology & Biophysics, who will serve as coordinator of the program at UMKC. “The students will use computer software programs to predict where genes should be, what they may be doing in the organism, and then predict general biochemical/biology functions based on these findings.”

Idnurm says he plans to run the program as close to possible to the way a normal genome annotation team would work. He expects to enlist 12-18 students into the program from different year groups, with the plan for some levels of mentoring between the more senior students and junior students. Along with Idnurm, the learning experience will be facilitated by Dean Dreyfus and Associate Professor Jerry Wyckoff, Ph.D.

“This is a great opportunity for students to share a common research experience in molecular biology,” Idnurm said. “The type of ‘DNA gazing’ that the students will be doing is exactly the same type of activity that research scientists do.”

About the UMKC School of Biological Sciences

The mission of the School of Biological Sciences is to provide outstanding undergraduate and graduate education in modern biology and to advance our understanding of molecular biology through basic research. The school comprises two academic Divisions – Cell Biology & Biophysics and Molecular Biology & Biochemistry. The School’s pioneering programs in molecular genetics, structural biology and proteomics nurture the intellectual capital necessary to fuel the economic development of biotechnology in Kansas City.

About UMKC

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience.

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