SMCC Biology Students find new viruses on campus!

This fall was the first time that the introductory Phage Genomics laboratory was offered in the Science department at SMCC (BIOL122). This is a course that was developed by the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute. SMCC was one of only four community colleges in the county to be accepted into this program.

10 students signed up for the course which is geared to introduce students to how science is actually studied.  Rather than having students complete a set of proscribed laboratory experiments, they went outdoors and isolated new viruses from the soil on campus.  These are viruses that specifically infect a soil bacterium Mycobacterium msegmatis affectionately known as "smeg"

Each student worked in the lab on average of four hours per week to find and isolate their own virus.  After purifying their virus they were able to work with Karen Moulton at USM photographs of their virus under the electron microscope (see photo below).

They also each worked to purify the DNA from their virus in order to study its genome.  Two of the students had the DNA from their virus sent to the Univ of Pittsburgh to have it sequenced.  This will allow the students to study the makeup of the virus genome (what genes are present, how related it the virus to other viruses previously characterized) during the second semester of the class (BIOL127).  The viral genome will be annotated as to location and function of genes, and the annotated sequence will be published in the Genbank (international library of DNA sequences) with the SMCC students listed as authors.

The laboratory work for this course at SMCC was supported by the INBRE grant provided to SMCC by the National Institute of Health, and administered by Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratories, specifically Award Number P20RR016463 from the National Center for Research Resources.

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January 2012 • Campus Connection • Your connection to the SMCC community 

SMCC students at Mount Desert Island Biological Labs January 8-13th, 2012

For the third year in a row, a dozen SMCC Science students spent their last week of winter break at Mount Desert Island Biological Labs participating in an intensive weeklong genetics course sponsored by the National Institute of Health.  The students  used molecular techniques to study population genetics related to the migratory behavior of alewives, a fish commonly found in Maine rivers.  Salmon are well known to swim back to their native rivers to spawn, but the fidelity of alewives to their native streams is unclear.

The students examined DNA from fish harvested from two different rivers in Scarborough Marsh; Mill Brook and the Nonesuch River.   An interesting historical feature of the project, was that the majority of the fish were collected by their professor, Brian Tarbox, 35 years ago when he was doing the research for his masters thesis at University  of Maine!

The students compared the fish from the two rivers by extracting DNA from fish scales that Professor Tarbox had saved.  They isolated DNA from the scales and then amplified it using Polymerase Chain Reaction.  Once they had a larger amount of DNA sample they examined the sequences and looked for differences between the two sets of fish.

Throughout this process the students learned new skills, and got to spend an entire week (sometimes staying in the lab until 10 PM) in the modern research facility at Mount Desert Island Biological Lab.

Students in the Biotechnology, Marine Sciences, and Liberal Studies Biology program participated this year. Genevieve Foley  The short course was fantastic! Getting to work in a real lab alongside scientists was a truly incredible and valuable experience.”  Stanley Pile further elaborated “The most important aspect of the short course was the hands on experience of learning and utilizing the technical tools and machines to facilitate our research experience. The most valuable lesson I took from this experience is to be methodical and precise with the handling and use of all of the equipment and procedures; and to be patient. “

The students will work to finish up their data collection during the spring semester, and then plan to present their results at the 39th annual Maine Biological and Biomedical Sciences Symposium which will be held in April at Mount Desert Island Biological Labs.  The entire cost of the course, including scientific supplies, housing, food and travel was supported by the INBRE grant provided to SMCC by the National Institute of Health, and administered by Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratories, specifically Award Number P20RR016463 from the National Center for Research Resources.

Three photos below:

Stanley Pile pipettes while Cassie Day and Khoung Lim record data

Rebecca Riendeau, Noel White, and Cassie Day showing off their pipetting skills at MDIBL.

Entire student group at MDIBL