Cornerstone: Genetics of Zebrafish Development and Evolution
Biol 2970.047, 3 credits
A cornerstone of science, genetics.
This course will use an inquiry-based approach to teach you how to formulate a scientific question, and experimentally approach that question. I believe that a key to motivating students is to allow them to discover their interests on their own. My goal is to foster curiosity, and to teach you to critically evaluate the information you are presented; I hope to impact your thinking and decision-making skills long after you have left this course. Through reading and open discussion of peer-reviewed primary literature, you will learn how to identify hypotheses being tested in scientific papers, judge if the proper tools/techniques have been applied, and determine if the scientific questions posed have been adequately addressed and answered.
Research in the McCauley lab is focused on two aspects of the role for genes required in development of the neural crest, an important cell type unique to all vertebrates. Our research is focused on genes that are required for development of neural crest related structures such as cartilage, neurons, and pigment, and how neural crest cells evolved to regulate development of these structures. Thus, questions posed in the McCauley lab focus on biomedical interests as well as basic questions on the evolution of protein function. When you enroll in this course section, you will learn how basic molecular research can be interrelated with research that also has applications of biomedical relevance.
As a student in the course, you will take advantage of the two model organisms used in the McCauley lab, the sea lamprey and the zebrafish. You will learn how the same (homologous) genes that are present in both models play both unique and overlapping roles in these animals. You will also learn how development of a research project can be strengthened by using different model organisms with their own unique strengths, to best address a research question. You will have the opportunity to branch out and learn how the same genes can regulate various aspects of development and differentiation within different tissues. Since the common goal of the course is to foster independent thinking and interest in science, you will be encouraged to explore how to develop alternative research questions, based on the course topic: neural crest cell development. Individually, you will be exposed to a common curriculum through lectures and participation in group reading and discussion of scientific papers. Working in small teams, you will be guided through the steps required to develop an independent research project related to the overall course topic. More broadly, you will benefit from experience gained through working in collaboration with other team members together with me, your professor, to learn how a smaller project fits into the overall larger goals of a research lab in making scientific contributions that benefit society.