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Laboratory Exercises

 


The Ames Test

 

This published laboratory introduces students to the Ames test, an assay used to determine the mutagenic properties of chemical compounds, using a distinctly quantitative approach.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Nature of genetic material; Genetic variation

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to implement observational strategies to devise a question; Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses; Students should be able to design an experiment using appropriate controls and appropriate sample sizes; Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data; Students should be able to generate and interpret graphs displaying experimental results; Students should be able to critique large data sets and use bioinformatics to assess genetics data; Students should be able to communicate experimental results effectively, including writing research papers and giving presentations.

Audience: Intermediate undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type: Open-ended laboratory

Activity Length: 2 weeks (Week 1: 3 hrs; Week 2: 2 hrs)


 


Behavioral Genetics: Investigating the genes of a complex phenotype in fruit flies

 

This laboratory exercise uses both inquiry-based and active-learning approaches to uncover the genetic architecture of behavior in the model organism, Drosophila melanogaster.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Nature of genetic material; Genetic variation; Transmission/Patterns of Inheritance; Gene Expression and Regulation; Methods and Tool in Genetics

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to implement observational strategies to formulate a question; Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses; Students should be able to generate and interpret graphs displaying experimental results; Students should be able to critique large data sets and use bioinformatics to assess genetics data; Students should be able to effectively explain genetics concepts to different audiences; Students should be able to tap into the interdisciplinary nature of science.

Audience: Introductory to intermediate undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type: Inquiry-based laboratory

Activity Length: 2-3 hours


 


The Case of the Missing Strawberries: RFLP analysis

 

While solving the fictional mystery of the missing strawberries, students are engaged in a guided-inquiry lesson featuring small-group and class discussions, hands-on activities, and laboratory exercises related to molecular genotyping by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Nature of genetic material; Methods and Tool in Genetics

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to implement observational strategies to formulate a question; Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses; Students should be able to design an experiment using appropriate controls and appropriate sample sizes; Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data; Students should be able to identify and critique scientific issues relating to society or ethics.

Audience: Introductory undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type: Laboratory and in-class activity

Activity Length: 4 hours


 


Exploration of the Human Genome by Investigation of Personalized SNPs

 

To increase students' interest in their own genomes, this computer-based laboratory lesson provides students with the opportunity be genotyped by the consumer sequencing company, 23andMe. This lesson employs multiple open-access websites through which students explore a health-related single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in which they are most interested. 

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Genetic variation; Genetics of model organisms

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to implement observational strategies to devise a question; Students should be able to generate and interpret graphs displaying experimental results; Students should be able to critique large data sets and use bioinformatics to assess genetics data; Students should be able to communicate experimental results effectively, including writing research papers and giving presentations; Students should be able to identify and critique scientific issues relating to society or ethics.

Audience: Intermediate undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type: Laboratory activity

Activity Length: 3 hours


 


Exploring Genetic Variation in a Caffeine Metabolism Gene

 

This laboratory illustrates the core concept of genetic variation by having students analyze a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) from their own DNA, and can be scaled up or down to meet the needs of majors and nonmajors alike.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Nature of genetic material; Genetic variation

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to implement observational strategies to devise a question; Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses; Students should be able to design an experiment using appropriate controls and appropriate sample sizes; Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data.

Audience: Intermediate undergraduate (introductory undergraduate option); biology/genetics majors (nonmajor option)

Activity Type: Inquiry-Based laboratory

Activity Length: 2-4 weeks (2-4 hours per week)


 


Fetching SNPs: A Dog Genotyping Laboratory for Undergraduate Biology

 

This multi-week lab project is designed to increase comprehension of the core concept of genetic variation, and give undergraduate students experience with genotyping DNA isolated from dogs.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Transmission/Patterns of inheritance; Genetic variation; Evolution; Genetics and society

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to implement observational strategies to formulate a question; Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses; Students should be able to design an experiment using appropriate controls and appropriate sample sizes; Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data; Students should be able to effectively explain genetics concepts to different audiences; Students should be able to identify and critique scientific issues relating to society or ethics.

Audience: Intermediate undergraduate (advanced undergraduate option); biology/genetics majors

Activity Type: Open-ended laboratory

Activity Length: 3-4 weeks (3 hrs per week)


 


Finding Selection in All the Right Places

 

This inquiry-based laboratory introduces students to evolutionary genetics using bioinformatics and biocuration.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Nature of genetic material; Genetic variation; Evolution

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to implement observational strategies to devise a question; Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses; Students should be able to design an experiment using appropriate controls and appropriate sample sizes; Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data; Students should be able to apply statistical methods when analyzing their data, and use patterns to construct a model; Students should be able to critique large data sets and use bioinformatics to assess genetics data. 

Audience: Introductory to intermediate undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type: Open-ended laboratory

Activity Length: 2.5 hrs




Revised College Genetics Laboratory Exercise for Witnessing Phenotypic and Molecular Evolution in the Fruit Fly

 

An update to a published lab that allows students to observe both phenotypic and molecular evolition through natural selection; the revised version makes the exercise more accessible to a broader audience of novice fruit fly handlers.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Nature of genetic material; Transmission/Patterns of Inheritance; Evolution

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to implement observational strategies to devise a question; Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses; Students should be able to design an experiment using appropriate controls and appropriate sample sizes; Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data.

Audience: Intermediate undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type: Open-ended laboratory

Activity Length: 4-6 days spread across 2-3 months




Two complementary methods for genotyping taste receptor TAS2R38 in humans

 

This multi-session laboratory exercise is designed to expand the concept of genetic variation, expose students to multiple molecular techniques, and underscore the importance of experimental validation in the scientific method.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Nature of genetic material; Transmission/Patterns of Inheritance; Evolution and Population Genetics

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to implement observational strategies to formulate a question; Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses; Students should be able to design an experiment using appropriate controls and appropriate sample sizes; Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data.

Audience: Intermediate undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type: Open-ended laboratory

Activity Length: Three 3-hour labs




Using Fijiwings to Understand the Genetic Control of Cell Growth and Proliferation: A Computer-Based Laboratory Exercise

 

This lab conveys the core concepts of gene expression and regulation, and in particular how genes control development using a computer-based program to measure the effect of manipulating cell signaling on tissue and cell size.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Gene expression and regulation; Genetic variation; Genetics of model organisms

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to implement observational strategies to formulate a question; Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses; Students should be able to design an experiment using appropriate controls and appropriate sample sizes; Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data; Students should be able to generate and interpret graphs displaying experimental rules; Students should be able to apply statistical methods when analyzing their data, and use patterns to construct a model; Students should be able to critique large data sets and use bioinformatics to assess genetics data; Students should be able to identify and critique scientific issues relating to society or ethics.

Audience: Intermediate undergraduate (beginning undegraduate option); biology/genetics majors (non-majors option)

Activity Type: Inquiry-based laboratory exercise

Activity Length: 3 modules spread across 5 lab periods

 


 


Using Synthetic Biology and pClone Red for Authentic Research on Promoter Function: Genetics (analyzing mutant promoters)

 

This laboratory lesson allows students to conduct original research by characterizing functional regions within known prokaryotic promoters. Students begin the lesson by learning the properties of transcriptional promoter DNA sequences, design mutations for a constitutive promoter, and discuss their designs as a class to choose which mutations to clone and characterize.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Molecular Biology of Gene Function; Genetic variation; Genetics of model organisms; Methods and Tools in Genetics

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to implement observational strategies to formulate a question; Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses; Students should be able to design an experiment using appropriate controls and appropriate sample sizes; Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data; Students should be able to generate and interpret graphs displaying experimental results; Students should be able to communicate experimental results effectively, including writing research papers and giving presentations.

Audience:Introductory undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type: Laboratory exercise

Activity Length: 4 weeks in lab (2-3 hours each week), with options to extend the lesson

 


 


Using Synthetic Biology and pClone Red for Authentic Research on Promoter Function: Introductory Biology (identifying new promoters)

 

This laboratory lesson allows students to conduct original research by identifying and characterizing promoters found in prokaryotes. Students start with primary literature, design and clone a short promoter, and test how well their promoter works.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Molecular Biology of Gene Function; Genetic variation; Genetics of model organisms; Methods and Tools in Genetics

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to implement observational strategies to formulate a question; Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses; Students should be able to design an experiment using appropriate controls and appropriate sample sizes; Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data; Students should be able to communicate experimental results effectively, including writing research papers and giving presentations.

Audience:Introductory undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type: Laboratory exercise

Activity Length: 4 weeks in lab (2-3 hours each week), with options to extend the lesson

 


 


You and Your Oral Microflora: Introducing non-biology majors to their “forgotten organ”

 

This laboratory module is designed to introduce non-science majors to their “forgotten organ”, the human microbiome, through a series of activities where students sample and analyze a subset of their oral microflora.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Molecular Biology of Gene Function; Methods and Tools in Genetics

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to implement observational strategies to formulate a question; Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses; Students should be able to critique large data sets and use bioinformatics to assess genetics data; Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data; Students should be able to identify and critique scientific issues relating to society or ethics.

Audience: Introductory undergraduate; non-science majors

Activity Type: Laboratory exercise

Activity Length: 7 weeks (10-45 minutes of active lab time each week); can be modified to fit a number of different formats


 

 

Laboratory Protocols

 


Recombination Calculations by Branch Diagrams

 

This is a method for analyzing recombination events in laboratories focused on genetic recombination. The branch diagram method provides visual cues for which classes are recombinant, as well as a structural guide to assist students with the mathematical analysis of recombination data. 

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Nature of genetic material; Transmission/patterns of inheritance

Core Competencies Addressed:Students should be able to implement observational strategies to devise a question; Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses; Students should be able to design an experiment using appropriate controls and appropriate sample sizes; Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data; Students should be able to apply statistical methods when analyzing their data, and use patterns to construct a model.

Audience: Intermediate undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type: Laboratory protocol

Activity Length: N/A


 

 

In-Class/Lecture Exercises

 


A Kinesthetic Modeling Activity to Teach PCR Fundamentals  

 

Most molecular biology and biological sciences students understand that the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to amplify DNA. However, some students experience conceptual misunderstandings, a lack of detailed comprehension of the PCR process, or difficulties with troubleshooting and predicting the effects of alterations to the standard PCR process. This activity allows students to kinesthetically generate a visual layout of the first three cycles of PCR and focus on fundamental processes that occur during initial phases of the amplification reaction.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed:Methods and Tools in Genetics

Core Competencies Addressed:Students should be able to generate and interpret graphs displaying experimental results; Students should be able to critique large data sets and use bioinformatics to assess genetics data.

Audience:Intermediate to advanced undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type:In-class/Lecture Exercise

Activity Length: 50-70 minutes


 


Active Learning Workshops for Teaching Key Topics in Introductory Cell and Molecular Biology: Structure of DNA/RNA, Structure of Proteins, and Cell Division via Mitosis and Meiosis  

 

This resource consists of workshop materials that facilitate an active learning approach to teaching three core topics typically covered in introductory cell and molecular biology courses: DNA/RNA structure, protein structure, and cell division via both mitosis and meiosis.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Nature of genetic material; Transmission/patterns of inheritance

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to: implement observational strategies to formulate a question; generate testable hypotheses; design an experiment using appropriate controls and appropriate sample sizes; effectively explain genetics concepts to different audiences

Audience: Introductory undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type:In-class/Lecture Exercise

Activity Length: 1-1.5 50-minute class periods per workshop


 


Basic Probability and Chi-Squared Tests
 

An inquiry-based, in-class exercise designed to give students practice working with critical skills for classic genetic analysis, including: understanding probability; combining probabilities to make predictions about outcomes; and evaluating the fit of observed data to predictions based on a null model.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Transmission/patterns of inheritance

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to implement observational strategies to formulate a question; Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses; Students should be able to design an experiment using appropriate controls and appropriate sample sizes; Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data; Students should be able to apply statistical methods when analyzing their data, and use patterns to construct a model.

Audience: Introductory undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type: In-class exercise

Activity Length: 50 minutes


 


Building a Model of Tumorigenesis: A small group activity for a cancer biology/cell biology course
 

In this small group activity, students are presented with background information about the multistep nature of tumorigenesis and complete a priming activity that allows them to brainstorm and discuss experimental design.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Genetic variation

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data; Students should be able to apply statistical methods when analyzing their data, and use patterns to construct a model.

Audience: Upper level undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type: Lecture/Small group activity

Activity Length: 75 minutes


 


The Case of the Missing Strawberries: RFLP analysis

 

While solving the fictional mystery of the missing strawberries, students are engaged in a guided-inquiry lesson featuring small-group and class discussions, hands-on activities, and laboratory exercises related to molecular genotyping by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Nature of genetic material; Methods and Tool in Genetics

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to implement observational strategies to formulate a question; Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses; Students should be able to design an experiment using appropriate controls and appropriate sample sizes; Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data; Students should be able to identify and critique scientific issues relating to society or ethics.

Audience: Introductory undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type: Laboratory and in-class activity

Activity Length: 4 hours


 


Cystic Fibrosis: Exploration of evolutionary explanations for the high frequency of a common disorder

 

A guided classroom exercise in which students derive and evaluate hypotheses to explain the relatively high incidence of cystic fibrosis (and the alleles responsible) in European and European-derived human populations.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Genetic variation; Evolution

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to implement observational strategies to formulate a question; Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses; Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data.

Audience: Introductory undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type: In-class exercise

Activity Length: 2 hours


 


Demonstrating Meiosis Using Manipulatable Chromosomes and Cells

 

This resource is an in-class, hands-on, manipulative modeling exercise designed to allow students to visualize and demonstrate meiosis in a diploid cell by manipulating a simplified three-dimensional model of chromosomes in a model germ cell; this is for students to complete individually but work through in small groups. 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Nature of genetic material; Transmission/patterns of inheritance

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to implement observational strategies to formulate a question; Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses; Students should be able to identify and critique scientific issues relating to society or ethics.

Activity Type: In-class exercise
Activity Length: 30-50 minutes


 


DNA Replication: A case discussion of a landmark paper by Meselson and Stahl

 

An exercise that couples a classic primary literature paper detailing the process of DNA replication with a set of questions designed to both guide students through the process of reading papers and delve deeply into the critical concept of replication.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Nature of genetic material

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to implement observational strategies to formulate a question; Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses; Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data; Students should be able to generate and interpret graphs displaying experimental results; Students should be able to communicate experimental results effectively, including writing research papers and giving presentations.


Audience: Advance undergraduate; biology/genetics majors; Introductory graduate

Activity Type: In-class exercise

Activity Length: 1 hour


 


Homologous chromosomes? Exploring human sex chromosomes, sex determination and sex reversal using bioinformatics approaches

 

Constructing a robust understanding of homologous chromosomes, sex chromosomes, and the particulate nature of genes is a notoriously difficult task for undergraduate biology students. In this four-part guided activity, students expand their knowledge of human chromosome pairs by closely examining autosomes, sex chromosomes, and the non-homologous elements of the human X and Y sex chromosomes.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Nature of Genetic Material; Transmission/ Patterns of Inheritance; Genetic Variation

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to implement observational strategies to formulate a question; Students should be able to critique large data sets and use bioinformatics to assess genetics data; Students should be able to identify and critique scientific issues relating to society or ethics.

Audience: Introductory undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type: In-class exercise

Activity Length: 2 hours


 


Human Genetic Variation: A flipped classroom exercise in cultural competency

 

A flipped-classroom exercise featuring an interactive case discussion, created to emphasize the clinical relevance of population genetics and also a suitable resource for teaching the basic principles of population genetics while relating them to human genetic variation.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Evolution and Population Genetics

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to apply statistical methods when analyzing their data, and use patterns to construct a model; Students should be able to tap into the interdisciplinary nature of science; Students should be able to identify and critique scientific issues relating to society or ethics.

Audience: Advanced undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type: In-class exercise

Activity Length: 1-1.5 hours


 


Learn.Genetics/Teach.Genetics

 

The resources through the Genetic Science Learning Center at University of Utah provide "accurate and unbiased information about topics in genetics, bioscience , and health" via lesson plans, thorough descriptions, animations, and interactivity.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Nature of genetic material; Transmission/patterns of inheritance; Gene expression and regulation; Genetic variation; Evolution; Genetics and society

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data; Students should be able to generate and interpret graphs displaying experimental results; Students should be able to tap into the interdisciplinary nature of science; Students should be able to effectively explain genetics concepts to different audiences; Students should be able to identify and critique scientific issues relating to society or ethics.

Audience: K-12; introductory undergraduate; biology/genetics non-majors; general public

Activity Type: Varied

Activity Length: Varied


 


Sex-specific differences in Meiosis: Real-world applications

 

This resource focuses on teachingthe differences in meiosis between human sexes with a student-driven lesson plan that utilizes active-learning techinques.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Evolution and Population Genetics; Nature of Genetic Material

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses; Students should be able to communicate experimental results effectively, including writing research papers and giving presentations; Students should be able to generate and interpret graphs displaying experimental results; Students should be able to identify and critique scientific issues relating to society or ethics.

Audience:Introductory undergraduate; biology/genetics majors and non-majors

Activity Type: Lecture

Activity Length: 45 minutes


 


Teaching Genetic Linkage and Recombination through Mapping with Molecular Markers

 

This student-centered interactive lesson and associated post-class problem set teaches genetic linkage through mapping a gene by determining co-segregation of a phenotype with microsatellite sequences revealed by gel electrophoresis banding patterns.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Transmission/patterns of inheritance; Methods and Tools in Genetics

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to apply statistical methods when analyzing their data, and use patterns to construct a model; Students should be able to generate and interpret graphs displaying experimental results.

Audience: Introductory, undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type: Lecture

Activity Length: 2-3 hours

 


 


Why do Some People Inherit a Predisposition to Cancer? A small group activity on cancer genetics

 

Through a small group activity that includes watching short video clips, answering clicker questions, and engaging in classroom discussion, this resource teaches students how a genetic predisposition to cancer can be inherited.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Transmission/patterns of inheritance; Evolution and Population Genetics

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to generate and interpret graphs displaying experimental results; Students should be able to communicate experimental results effectively, including writing research papers and giving presentations; Students should be able to tap into the interdisciplinary nature of science; Students should be able to identify and critique scientific issues relating to society or ethics.

Audience: Introductory, upper level undergraduate; biology/genetics majors and non-majors

Activity Type: Lecture/ In-class activity

Activity Length: Two class periods (50-60 minute and 75-90 minute course options)

 


 


Why Meiosis Matters: The case of the fatherless snake

 

This story presents students with a compelling puzzle of a fatherless snake.  The puzzle motivates students to learn about meiosis and mitosis. During the process, students work through the major steps in meiosis, compare and contrast mitosis and meiosis, and apply their understanding to predict how meiosis “went wrong” to produce an unusual offspring that did not originate through union of an egg and a sperm.

 

Genetics Categories Addressed: Transmission/patterns of inheritance

Core Competencies Addressed: Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses

Audience:Introductory undergraduate; biology/genetics majors and non-majors

Activity Type: Lecture

Activity Length: 75 minutes