High School Student Bioinformatics Field Trips

Bioinformatics Lab

In April 2003 the final draft sequence of the human genome was completed. This monumental achievement fuels tremendous research efforts to understand the information our DNA sequence encodes. Scientists identify genes, define the proteins these genes may produce, and understand how they function. To achieve these goals, biologists are integrating computer-based tools into their research routines. This field, called bioinformatics, allows scientists to make sense of the huge amount of sequence data and to "mine" genomes for meaning.

Students visiting the DNALC have the unprecedented opportunity to work with the same computer tools and data that genome scientists use. The six computer-based modules integrate enticing content with hands-on computer exercises. Students will analyze human, plant, bacterial, and viral genomes; study the evolution of modern humans; understand how variations in DNA sequence contribute to disease; view three-dimensional structures of proteins; and learn about new strategies for developing therapeutic drugs.

All classes are two and a half hours in length, and will be conducted in our state-of-the-art BioMedia Computer Lab.

Gene Sleuthing

"Mine" the genomes of humans and other organisms. Students work as scientists, using WWW tools and publicly available genome databases to find genes in genomic DNA sequences. They will gain a better understanding of the structure of genes – the sequences of DNA that make humans look like humans, mice look like mice, and plants look like plants.

Of Maize and Men – Jumping Genes Across Kingdoms

Discover mobile elements that can shape an organism's genetic make-up. These "jumping genes," also known as transposons, move across chromosomes and relocate constantly. Students use bioinformatics tools to discover transposons in corn and humans, learn how they move, and how they can contribute to disease. Of Maize and Men can be booked as a stand-alone course, or as preparation or follow-up for the popular DNALC lab Human DNA Fingerprinting.

Gleevec™: A Smart Bomb in the War on Cancer

In this exercise the drug Gleevec™ is used to demonstrate the successful development of a rationally designed, molecularly-targeted therapy for the treatment of a specific cancer. Through animations and the use of bioinformatics tools, students learn how the development of anti-cancer drugs critically depends on the thorough understanding of cell signaling pathways.

HIV: The Co-Evolution of Virus and Man

Explore the life cycle, genome, and evolution of HIV. Using bioinformatics tools, students compare the genetic sequences of different HIV strains from humans and other primates. Multimedia animations will illustrate the mechanism of action of anti-HIV drugs. Students compare viral gene sequences to discover mutations that lead to drug resistance and investigate the human genetics of natural resistance to HIV infection and disease progression.

Sickle Cell Anemia – A Disease of Diverse Populations

This lab will explore the molecular biology of sickle cell anemia from DNA sequence, to protein structure, and ultimately to disorder. Computer simulations will address questions about why the sickle cell mutation continues to persist in several areas of the world. Students learn about current and emerging therapies to improve the lives of individuals with this disorder.

Human Origins and the Story of Mitochondrial Eve

Written in the human genome is a record of our evolutionary past, our shared ancestry, and how we migrated to populate the globe. Track down our most recent common maternal ancestor, also known as "Mitochondrial Eve." When did she walk the earth? Where did she live? Was she alone? By comparing DNA sequences from populations all over the world, students can begin to address these questions by using bioinformatics tools to align DNA sequences, search genome databases and create phylogenetic trees. Human Origins and the Story of Mitochondrial Eve can be booked as a stand-alone course, or as preparation or follow-up for the popular DNALC lab Human DNA Sequencing.

Reservation Details

  • Bioinformatics labs are restricted to students in grades 10, 11, and 12.
  • The group lab rate is $15 per student with a minimum fee of $300.
  • Unless other arrangements have been made in advance, all Bioinformatics labs begin promptly at 9:30 AM.
  • Classes cancelled less than one month prior to their scheduled date will not be permitted additional computer lab visits during the ongoing school year.
  • Reserve by phone: 516-719-1296.
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