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!

2 thoughts on “Really involving undergrads in research”

  1. One of my favourite structural genomics papers, Structural proteomics of an archaeon, acknowledges the work of 6 summer students in the M & M section – it’s not clear whether they made authorship or not. I’m sure that there are lots of other examples. I’d imagine that many students are excited about genomics – it should be easy for any group leader working on “big science” to poach all the available hands in the department when it comes to student projects!

  2. I wonder if this could be organized into undergraduate school project packages of some sort. The science research groups would organize school curricula that would be hopefully fun/informative and at the same time would give incremental small packages of new information. The benefit for the teachers would be to have always updated material for classes. Something like the Seti@home or Folding@home projects but a bit more complicated because of the material/transportation issues.

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