Undergraduate researchers working with Utah State University’s Center for Integrated BioSystems (CIB) will soon have the opportunity to conduct research on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) on the undergraduate research program in Microbial Genome Annotation. USU’s CIB is one of 20 team members selected from a competitive field of applicants. Leading the project are USU biologists Jacob Parnell and Giovanni Rompato, who will participate in a meeting in January 2010 focused on reforming undergraduate life sciences education through the research experience. The DOE JGI education program provides opportunities for colleges and universities across the country to “adopt” bacterial genomes for analysis, making recently sequenced genomes available for analysis in undergraduate courses. Students who participate in this program annotate lists of genomes that have recently been sequenced as part of the Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea project and then publish their findings. USU will receive credit for the work that is done on specific genomes. The research conducted by USU students will contribute to an online genome database maintained by the Department of Energy and has the potential to lead to advancements in pharmaceutical development. “USU’s CIB was chosen as a research center because it demonstrated the potential to enrich the curriculum with sequence-based research and contribute to a national model of undergraduate research,” said Parnell. “The program at USU will have corollary benefits of increasing the number of home-grown researchers and enhancing basic scientific research.” “This program will build on current studies already being conducted at USU, including the use of metagenomics to study the ecology of the Great Salt Lake,” said Kenneth White, interim director of USU’s CIB. The undergraduate research program at USU, established in 1975, is the second oldest in the nation and provides support to students participating in hands-on research in all colleges at USU.”This grant will provide our undergraduate researchers with new opportunities,” said Joyce Kinkead, associate vice president for research. “We are excited to learn of this new opportunity for undergraduate researchers and cutting-edge research it will allow them to conduct.” “Among our most important goals at the JGI is to engage undergraduates as scientists in the DOE-mission relevant research,” said Cheryl Kerfeid, JGI education director. The goal of the DOE JGI Microbial Genome Annotation program is to support the use of annotation to teach the curricular standards in new ways and provide a new research-based approach to teaching fundamental concepts in the life science curriculum. This program began as a successful pilot program at 12 universities, including UCLA, Michigan State University and the University of Nebraska. For more information on the Center for Integrated BioSystems and current research, visit the Web site (http://www.biosystems.usu.edu/research/cib_projects/). For more information about USU’s Undergraduate Research Program, visit the Web site (http://research.usu.edu/undergrad/htm/about_undergraduate_research). For more information about the Joint Genome Institute, visit the Web sites (http://www.jgi.doe.gov/; or http://www.jgi.doe.gov/News/news_09_12_23.html).
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