Genomics and bioinformatics in undergraduate curricula: Contexts for hybrid laboratory/lecture courses for entering and advanced science students



Emerging interest in genomics in the scientific community prompted biologists at James Madison University to create two courses at different levels to modernize the biology curriculum. The courses are hybrids of classroom and laboratory experiences. An upper level class uses raw sequence of a genome (plasmid or virus) as the subject on which to base the experience of genomic analysis. Students also learn bioinformatics and software programs needed to support a project linking structure and function in proteins and showing evolutionary relatedness of similar genes. An optional entry-level course taken in addition to the required first-year curriculum and sponsored in part by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, engages first year students in a primary research project. In the first semester, they isolate and characterize novel bacteriophages that infect soil bacteria. In the second semester, these young scientists annotate the genes on one or more of the unique viruses they discovered. These courses are demanding but exciting for both faculty and students and should be accessible to any interested faculty member.