Fostering Interdisciplinary or Integrative Learning

The Manduca Functional Genomics Curriculum has been introduced into every level of the Barnard biology major, from a behavior exercise in introductory biology labs, to modules in five upper level courses (Genomics and Bioinformatics, Lab in Genetics, Lab in Molecular Biology, Project Lab in Molecular Biology, and Lab in Animal Physiology), to guided year-long senior thesis projects. Thus, in addition to modeling an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach, this curriculum is designed to provide students with multiple points of access to research at different stages of their undergraduate careers.

The scientific goal of the overall project is to identify and functionally characterize chemosensory receptor genes in the tobacco hornworm Manduca sexta. Manduca is both an agricultural pest and an established model organism for insect chemosensation, but it has, until recently, lacked genetic and genomic tools. Students have participated in experiments that span a range of subdisciplines covered in the courses listed above. Their research has used bioinformatics to identify chemosensory gene families, used molecular biology to test gene structure and expression, developed functional assays, and tested the physiological role of chemosensory receptors. Several students have participated in multiple aspects of this curriculum, via enrollment in multiple courses or independent research projects. To date, more than thirty students have contributed to three publications arising from the project.

Howlett N, Dauber K, Shukla A, Morton B, Glendinning JI, Brent E, Gleason C, Islam F, Izquierdo D, Sanghavi S, Afroz A, Aslam A, Barbaro M, Blutstein R, Borovka M, Desire B, Elikhis A, Fan Q, Hoffman K, Huang A, Keefe D, Lopatin S, Miller S, Patel P, Rizzini D, Robinson A, Rokins K, Turlik A, Mansfield JH. 2012. Identification of chemosensory receptor genes in Manduca sexta and knockdown by RNA interference. BMC Genomics 13:211

Afroz A, Howlett N, Shukla A, Ahmad F, Batista E, Bedard K, Payne S, Morton B, Mansfield JH, Glendinning JI. (2013. Gustatory receptor neurons in Manduca sexta contain a TrpA1-dependent signaling pathway that integrates taste and temperature. Chemical Senses 38(7): 605-617

Koenig C, Hirsh A, Bucks S, Klinner C, Vogel H, Shukla A., Mansfield J.H., Morton B., Hansson BS, and Grosse-Wilde E. 2015. A reference gene set for chemosensory receptor genes of Manduca sexta.Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. E-published ahead of print. DOI: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2015.09.007.