Associate Professor of Biology Archer, Director; Professor of Biology Fleming; Associate Professor of Biology Foster; Associate Professor of Biology and Neuroscience Guardiola-Diaz
The Genomics Research Program at Trinity is designed for academically motivated students interested in the life sciences. Developed in affiliation with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s SEA-PHAGES Initiative, it is a selective program for exceptional first-year students that provides a biological research experience during the first two semesters of college, and a research seminar during the sophomore year. The GRP offers program-specific courses in which each student identifies and characterizes a non-pathogenic virus collected from the environment. From the viruses described, one is selected for complete genome sequencing. Students then explore genomic analysis by analyzing the genome structure—identifying new genes and adding them to the public gene databases. A student representative will present the class research at the end of the first year in a research symposium hosted by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at their research campus in Virginia. The program is a unique opportunity to participate directly in the exciting area of genomics, and to experience biological discovery firsthand. The program is compatible with all majors at the College.
The Genomics Research Program begins in the fall semester of the first year with the FYSM 170. Phage Hunt course, in which students characterize viruses they collect from the environment (phage are viruses that attack bacteria). In the spring semester, students take BIOL 175. Genome Analysis, in which students learn how to analyze the phage genome. The two first-year GRP-dedicated courses emphasize hands-on learning of current methods in genomics, DNA techniques, and electron microscopy. In the first year of the program students also take BIOL 182. Evolution of Life in the fall, and BIOL 183. Cellular Basis of Life in the spring. These two introductory biology courses complement the research courses and provide the ecological, evolutionary, genetic, and cellular contexts.
In the sophomore year, GRP students participate in a research seminar designed to introduce them to continuing research opportunities at Trinity and beyond and give them experience in reading and understanding primary research articles in all areas of biology. Collectively, the first- and second-year courses give students outstanding research training in very active areas of biological research.
The Genomics Research Program can accommodate only a limited number of students. Applicants for admission to Trinity who are interested in the program should write to Prof. Kathleen Archer for further details. In March of each year, those applicants to the College judged to be best qualified will be invited to become candidates for enrollment in the program.
GRP-specific course descriptions
FYSM 170. Phage Hunt—Students carry out individual research to discover and describe a previously unknown phage (virus that grows on bacteria). Students learn the concepts and techniques needed to isolate their own phage from environmental samples and characterize the unique viral growth patterns on host bacteria. Students prepare their phage for viewing with the electron microscope so that viral physical structure can be described. Each student isolates the genomic DNA of their phage, analyzes the characteristic DNA fragment patterns, and prepares the DNA for genome sequencing. The course serves as a first year seminar, and includes practice in writing and critical thinking.
Note: This course is only open to students in the Genomics Research Program. It must be taken concurrently with BIOL 182.
BIOL 175. Genome Analysis—Students learn the methods of genome analysis using the phage genome sequenced in the course, FYSM 170. Phage Hunt. Students learn how to use bioinformatics software tools and gene databases to identify genes and regulatory sequences and compare them to known viral genomes. Evolutionary relationships between the new and already known viruses may be determined by comparing amino acid sequences of encoded proteins. New genes can be entered into the public gene databases. Students write up and present their scientific results.
Note: This course is only open to students in the Genomics Research Program. It must be taken concurrently with BIOL 183.
BIOL 250. Genomics Research Program Seminar—This course serves to transition students from their focused first year experience to the broader field of biological research, both at Trinity and beyond. Students will read primary research literature from the full range of the life sciences - from molecules to ecosystems - and discuss common themes and problems in biological research. Students will also interact with all faculty and upper-level students conducting biological research at Trinity and will attend presentations of guest-lecturers from other colleges and universities.