I found out today that URSA has generously provided me funds to explore using the MinION nanopore sequencer (Oxford Nanopore Technologies) for undergraduate research. Funds from this proposal will facilitate independent undergraduate genomic research opportunities using bleeding edge technology and a simplified workflow. The MinION at just 87 grams and half the size of an iPhone is so portable that it will visit the International Space Station as a proof of concept in remote collection of DNA sequence data. This device can provide opportunities for student researchers to generate their own low cost DNA sequence data (as little as $500 / experiment). In the near future, the machine will allow for the direct acquisition of data from biological samples (including saliva and blood) without lengthy time consuming steps. There are current applications identifying viral pathogens in near real-time.
In the future, students will design their own independent research projects that integrates this technology. This resource could support projects that propose environmental microbial community profiling and bacterial or even eukaryotic whole genome sequencing to just name a few opportunities. Additionally, the equipment can be integrated into fieldwork (e.g. Toolik) or works at remote campuses. The proposed research presents an opportunity for undergraduates to learn the methods and techniques of collecting and analyzing genomic data using bleeding edge technology. By providing training in the methods of genomic analysis, we are better preparing future Alaskans to generate and interpret data in the genomics era.