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Genetics & Marine Science Research

Spend J-Term working on projects at two of Maine’s premier research facilities: The Jackson Lab in Bar Harbor and the Bigelow Lab for Ocean Sciences in Boothbay Harbor. The first week of J-Term will be spent at the Jackson Lab working on a project on human personalized medicine. The second week will be spent at Bigelow, using some of the biotechnology techniques learned at JAX to work on a project related to seasonal changes in microbial communities in the Gulf of Maine.

Prerequisites: at least sophomore standing; previous Biology class, or currently enrolled in Biological Processes or Anatomy & Physiology. Students currently taking Genetics will find some repetition of what they have learned in class - talk with Dr. E-G before selecting this J-Term choice.

During J-Term, 2019, ten MSSM students participated in research projects at the Jackson Lab (JAX) in Bar Harbor and at the Bigelow Lab in East Boothbay.

While at JAX students worked on a project related to personalized medicine. They collected and extracted their own DNA, used PCR to selectively amplify three different genes that can differ from person-to-person, and then used restriction digestion, electrophoresis, and sequence analysis to determine whether they had the 'wild type' version of the gene or one of several variations. Students also learned how to use bioinformatics analysis tools, learned about (and saw) some of the mouse strains developed by and used by JAX researchers, toured the Sequencing and Necropsy/Histology facilities, listened to a presentation on the genetics of kidney disease given by Dr. Ron Korstanje, and discussed some of the ethical considerations behind personalized genetic testing for human diseases.

After a week at JAX students traveled to East Boothbay to spend a week at the Bigelow Lab for Ocean Sciences. Students worked with Drs. Nick Record and Peter Countway on a project involving environmental DNA (eDNA). In particular, they wanted to gather information on the winter-time abundance of the marine diatom Pseudo-nitzchia in Maine coastal waters. Blooms of Pseudo-nitzchia are becoming common in the summer in the Gulf of Maine, but little is known about their winter population size. This diatom is of interest to scientists because it produces a toxin which accumulates in shellfish, and becomes harmful to humans who then eat the shellfish. Students collected water samples, filtered those samples for chlorophyll and DNA analysis, and incubated subsamples at two different temperatures to see how warmer temperatures may influence growth of winter plankton. Pseudo-nitzchia abundance was analyzed using quantitative PCR (qPCR), and while its biomass was much lower than it is in the summer there was still some present. On the final day of J-Term, students learned about 'science communication' and put together three short science information videos.

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