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 (BIO 2010) 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.
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. Davidson College undergraduate teams regularly compete in the international Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) jamboree.
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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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