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Workshop Description:
This workshop will present an opportunity for students to perform original biological research while learning techniques in molecular and cellular biology, and to present their research to the larger community at the completion of their project. It is being offered free of charge to all accepted students. Participants will be paired up in groups of two throughout the duration of the project.

Who should apply?
The workshop series is open to any high school student who has achieved an 85% overall grade in their science and math courses combined, and who has successfully completed their life sciences course. A total of 10-12 spots are available, so space is limited.

Workshop Objectives:
1. To provide an opportunity by which students can apply disciplinary knowledge and discover their own potential as problem solvers
2. To enable the student to experience the gratification, frustration, uncertainty, enlightenment and empowerment that comes in the process of doing research.
3. To help students to develop the analytical skills by which a problem may be solved and the communication skills by which the researcher may present his research to the public. An effective researcher in biology must be able to report research to the public in a direct and simple manner.
4. Gain an understanding for experimental design; develop an understanding of the basic techniques for analyzing nucleic acids; apply certain techniques used for DNA isolation, manipulation, and cloning in the laboratory; realize how the tools of molecular biology can be utilized to address current research problems.

Student Commitment: If accepted into the program students will be asked to sign an informal contract stating that they intend to participate for the full course. Since they will be working in groups of two they will have a lab partner that is dependent on their presence and involvement.

Method of Evaluation:
Throughout the workshop, students will be asked to complete a self-evaluation in order to gauge how they are progressing, and whether they are gaining benefit from this series. They will be asked to evaluate the following aspects:
1. Mastery and a deep understanding of the research problem and the goals of the project.
2. The ability to apply logic and critical reasoning in evaluating arguments, interpreting data and drawing conclusions.
3. An understanding of the limitations of the research and its use in making broader generalizations.
4. A clear understanding of experimental design and the evaluation of dependent and independent variables.
5. A clear understanding of the research methods and the ability to make effective use of them.
6. The quality of both oral and written presentations (contained in their notebook) of the study.
7. Responsibility for equipment, supplies, and specimens.

Workshop structure
The workshop will be held on Saturday (dates below) from 9am-1pm. The first six meetings will consist of training in the methods and problem solving techniques the student will need to complete and independently designed project, to be carried out during the second part of the series.

During the winter break students will be asked to design a series of experiments to elucidate the function of an unknown gene in yeast. Student groups will be given a strain of yeast lacking this gene, and asked to tentatively identify its function using the assays they have learned in the first part of the program. Prior to this break students will learn how to utilize certain bioinformatics tools to help with the design of the project.

Texts: There is no designated text for this course. You will, however, need to bring a laboratory coat to each meeting, as well as a bound notebook in which to record your techniques and data, as well as continual self-evaluations on their progress.

Schedule of activities*


  • Introduction to the workshop series (parents invited)
  • Lab safety
  • Aseptic technique
  • Handwashing exercise


  • Microscopic analysis of yeast with trypan blue
  • Disc diffusion assay of survival


  • Serial dilutions for survival analysis
  • Spotting for survival analysis with ultraviolet light


  • Gene knockouts in yeast using PCR
  • Yeast transformations with p53 and pZZ2


  • DNA repair assays with nickel chloride
  • Catalase and fermentation assays using nickel chloride


  • Agarose gel electrophoresis of PCR products
  • Gene assignments
  • How to pick a treatment using SGD


1/18 Independent group work

1/25 Independent group work

2/1 Independent group work

2/8 Independent group work

2/15 Independent group work

3/8 Symposium

*Subject to change upon school closing due to inclement weather
(Makeup days: 2/22 and 3/1)

Instructor: Dr. Bernadette Connors bernadette.connors@dc.edu 

Student mentors: Daniel Alacar and Bestina Nunez

Dominican College Prusmack Rm. 308, Natural Science Department

For more information please contact: Dr. Bernadette Connors bernadette.connors@dc.edu or 845-848-6020.

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