2016 Basic DNA Biology and Bioinformatics STEM Camps

Dr. Pankaj Jaiswal (Co-PI of the NSF funded Gramene project) organized a basic DNA Biology and Bioinformatics STEM Summer Camps for 8-12 grade students from Jun 27th -July 1Ist.  To accomodate all applicants, two sessions of this camp were hosted. The morning basic camp was attended by 14 students from Corvallis, Eugene, Salem, Portland schools area including a few home schooled participants.The afternoon session was attended by 10 students and two science teachers from the David Douglas High School, a targeted school from Portland.

At first, students explored the complexities of DNA and protein structure using DNA and protein model-building kits, and then isolated DNA from bacteria and rice plants. The total DNA from rice plants was used for genotyping different rice varieties by PCR amplifying a number of genetic markers.  The  DNA from various Agrobacterium strains isolated by students was used for whole genome sequencing followed bioinformatics excercises to illustrate how genome sequences are assembled. The sudents also explored the rules of inheritance and tested Mendel's principles using F2 progeny of corn that was segregating for the seed color, learned about chromosome theory and genetic linkage. Students also transformed a tobacco plants with a foreign reporter gene STEM campand visualized their genetically modified (GMO) plants at the end of the camp. The GMO exercise and discussion on pros and cons, contributed to the understanding of the technique and its routine use by the researchers. Finally, in a field trip, students visited honey bee hives in the experimental field and learned about  the social behaviour and colony characteristics of a bee colony.

Through the use of laboratory experiments, hand-on exercises and computational analyses – participants gained basic understanding of biology, genetics, biotechnology and bioinformatics.

The camp was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) awards to Pankaj Jaiswal (Gramene and Planteome projects) and Jeff Anderson (Department of Botany); USDA-NIFA award to Jeff Chang (Department of Botany and Plant Pathology). Sequencing supplies were provided by Illimina Inc.  Honey bee experimental field tour was conducted by Ramesh Sagili (Department of Horticulture).

Pankaj Jaiswal’s laboratory organized the event in coordination with Cathy Law, Director of the OSU STEM Academy, with voluntary support provided in the form of instruction and camp activities by the faculty, postdoc scholars and graduate students from the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology and Department of Horticulture (College of Agricultural Sciences, Oregon State University).

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