Really involving undergrads in research

A paper in Genetics today has many, many (!) authors — and they aren’t from a big multi-nation project or large genome sequencing center, but a collection of undergraduates at UCLA. Maybe they didn’t all write the paper which can be confusing to some folks, but it looks like a group effort lead to some important results.

Using a large consortium of undergraduate students at UCLA in an organized program, we have undertaken a functional genomic screen in the Drosophila eye. In addition to the educational value of discovery-based learning, this report presents the first comprehensive genome-wide analysis of essential genes involved in eye development. The data reveal the surprising result that the X-chromosome has almost twice the frequency of essential genes involved in eye development as that found on the autosomes.

I am sure there are probably several other examples of this type of hands-on research education ongoing at different universities large and small. It is great that it can lead to a publication for these students and hopefully get them excited about problems in biology and genetics. Now let’s get those Neurospora screens going for undergraduate class projects!