Category Archives: teaching

Honor Program Award

Honors Program, Piacenza Award
Sarah Hartman nominated Devin Drown for the Piacenza Award

Today, Devin was awarded the Robert Piacenza Award for Excellence in Teaching by the Honors Program here at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  In her nominating statement, Sarah says

Dr. Drown is directly involved with students’ mastery of the material. He will converse with us one on on, comes to lab, and offers thoughtful feedback on in class exercises. He expects a lot…but he also offers a lot with a positive, engaging teaching style.

 

MinION Hackathon 2016

Interested in Genomics and Technology? Sign up for the first MinION Hackathon at UAF. We’ll explore bleeding edge genomics technology in a two part mini-workshop.

The MinION (Oxford Nanopore) 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 nanopore based machine demonstrates the future of genomic data acquisition by direct sequencing of single molecules without extra PCR amplification steps. 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 and it was used during the recent Ebola outbreak.

This URSA sponsored, free workshop will take place in two parts: 1) Hands on genomics lab experience where we prepare genetic samples and initiate DNA sequencing. 2) Bioinformatics lab experience where we analyze our new genomic data.  Each part will last around three hours and there will be opportunities for further research if you are interested. This workshop is meant to introduce you to the new technology available at UAF. The workshop will conclude with a poster presentation of our collective results at the 2016 URSA research day (April 26).

Using Nanopore Sequencing to Explore Genomics

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.

Evolution, Naturally Inspiring

This semester, some of my evolution students wrote blog posts over at Evolution, Naturally Inspiring on recent scientific research as an extra assignment. We know there is a need to communicate beyond our institutions. Making the science we do as public as we can is an important part of public outreach. What better way to help educate people about what we do then do show them the process too.

Assignment: Each student selected a paper from the primary literature. In addition to reading the primary source, I asked the students to delve into the broader context of the research. They drafted an initial post which I reviewed and made suggested. My suggested were to aid clarity, rather than provide editorial censoring. I really wanted each student’s voice to shine through the blog post. Student then submitted a revised version of the post for two peer reviews. The final product was a post around 1000-1500 words including some properly cited images.

Goal: To think and writing critically about recently published scientific research on evolution and present that research to a broader audience.

Link to PDF of full assignment

This semester we had a total of seven posts covering many topics in evolutionary biology. Hope you enjoy.