BLACKSBURG, Va., July 20 2007 - The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute hosted 11 students from Montgomery County high schools in a week-long summer program designed to encourage students' interest in scientific research. The program offered instruction in bioinformatics, biotechnology, and genomics.

The students attended four discussion/lecture series and visited eight research activity labs.  During their visit the students learned about:

    precise pipetting techniques (VBI’s Core Laboratory Facility)

    the ecological impact of methane emission and coal bed methane production (Assistant Professor Biswarup Mukhopadhyay)
    a parasitic protein that is a potential drug target for the treatment of malaria (Assistant Professor Dharmendar Rathore)
    how to analyze metabolites used to profile a time course of malaria infection (Associate Professor Vladimir Shulaev)
    how plant mutants reveal gene function (Professor Andy Pereira)

    DNA extraction and BLAST (Professor Brett Tyler)
    designing public health strategies for combating a pandemic influenza outbreak (VBI’s Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory)
    forensic DNA fingerprinting (Associate Professor Chris Lawrence)

    current work being conducted by Virginia Tech’s team for the 2007 International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition (Associate Professor Jean Peccoud)

The students also participated in six research related tours at and around the Virginia Tech campus which included: the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM); Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences research facilities; TechLab, Inc.; The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine; Advanced Research Computing at Virginia Tech’s System X Supercomputer; and the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science’s VT-CAVE virtual environment.

At the end of the week, each student gave a short presentation on how VBI’s program impacted their outlook on scientific research. “Working with DNA fingerprinting was my favorite part.  It was like we were on the set of CSI trying to solve the case,” said Alex Cobb, a freshman at Christiansburg High School.  Sarah Hinshelwood, a sophomore at Eastern Montgomery High School, particularly liked the DNA extraction lab where the students extracted their DNA and wore it as a necklace.  “I told my mom that I was going to give it to her when I leave for college so she can literally still have a piece of me at home.” 

This program was funded through Dr. Brett Tyler’s research group’s NSF funding, NSF # DBI-0211863


Suzanne Edwards

(540) 231-1767; 

Published by Suzanne Edwards, July 20, 2007