In 1953, two young scientists published the structure of DNA, a Nobel Prize winning discovery that gave birth to the interdisciplinary field of genomics. Beginning in 1990, scientists around the world embarked upon the Human Genome Project, with the goal of determining the composition of the entire human genome. The project is now complete, but there is so much more to learn from the genome: how our bodies function, how to prevent diseases, what makes different species unique, and even how life evolved on earth.
To ensure that future scientists, physicians and policymakers are prepared to take full advantage of the genomic revolution, the National Research Council issued a report (BIO2010) calling upon academic institutions to alter the way undergraduates prepare for post-baccalaureate education. Davidson College has responded to the call with Genomics and Bioinformatics courses, an interdisciplinary concentration, and interdisciplinary research opportunities for undergraduates.
The genomics concentration fulfills National Research Council recommendations to provide undergraduates with a strong foundation in biological, mathematical, physical and information sciences. The diverse academic background provided by this concentration in the context of a liberal arts education will help prepare students of all majors for exciting fields such as drug discovery, pharmaceutical industry, biomedical sciences, patent law, and ethics.
The Genomics Concentration requires six courses that meet the criteria below, with no more than two courses “double counting” for the concentration and a student’s major. No more than three of these six courses may have the same prefix (e.g., BIO). No more than one of these six courses can be taken pass/fail. A maximum of one transfer course credit can be applied towards the concentration if pre-approved by the advisors.
1) Three required courses: Bioinformatics Programming (CSC209); Genomics, Proteomics and Systems Biology (BIO309); and Laboratory Methods in Genomics (Bio343), or a pre-approved independent study or group investigation
2) Three courses from the list below, or approved independent studies and group investigations. However, no more than two of these three courses can have the same prefix, such as BIO or CSC. The purpose of this restriction is to foster additional diversity in a student’s curriculum. Because of their similarity, either CSC 121 or PHY 200 can be applied towards the concentration, but not both.
Students interested in pursuing the Genomics Concentration should contact one of the two primary advisors (Drs. Malcolm Campbell and Laurie Heyer) as early as possible to discuss curriculum options. Those who decide to pursue the concentration must submit a written application to either of the primary genomics advisors no later than the last day of the spring term in their junior year. Certification of completion of all requirements for the concentration is made by the Registrar upon the recommendation of the genomics advisors.
Students can pursue independent or group research projects. Group projects typically involve both biology majors and math majors. Independent projects are tailored to the student's interests, and may emphasize biological, mathematical and/or computational methods.
Research topics fall into one of the following areas:
Synthetic biology is a new area of genomics that blends molecular biology with mathematics, computer science, and engineering. The goals of synthetic biology are to design and construct new biological parts, devices and systems for useful purposes. You can read about some recent student projects from Dr. Campbell's web page or this lab page listing previous iGEM projects and accomplishments.
The DNA microarray is a high-throughput genomics method for measuring the expression levels of all genes in an organism simultaneously. Watch this animation to see how they work. Students design and build their own "teaching chips" in the Genomics Lab course, and several students have used microarrays in their independent studies or honors thesis projects. Other students have written software, called MAGIC Tool, to analyze gene expression data.
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