Microbial Molecular Genetics

Course Objectives:

  • Students will develop skills in critical reading of the original scientific literature and analysis of the data contained therein.
  • Students will learn to participate actively in their own education by reading the papers in advance and preparing themselves to discuss aspects of the papers in class.
  • Students will gain a sense of the role of genetics in defining biological phenomena through the study of systems where genetics uncovered new processes and/or mechanisms.
  • Students will come to understand how the level of understanding of a biological process increases by using a historical approach to study classical systems of gene regulation in bacteria.
  • Students will observe and learn the essentiality of the development of methods, e.g., those of bacterial genetics, recombinant DNA, and molecular genetics, in the ever-increasing depth of understanding of biological processes, using mechanisms of gene regulation as the model.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Accomplishing the objectives of the course will enable students to "think genetics".
  • Students will be in position to apply these newly acquired or honed skills in the critical reading of professional literature and analysis of data to the literature of whatever their chosen profession will be.
  • Thus, if a student chooses to continue in the general field of molecular genetics, this course will have provided the tools necessary to read the current literature successfully.
  • And, if a student chooses to enter another field, the same ability to read and understand their professional literature will have been acquired.

Course Philosophy:

The dual course objectives of enhancing active learning and developing critical reading skills will be achieved by in-class analysis of articles from the original scientific literature. The format is that students will be called on at-random to discuss the assigned papers in the context of the following questions:

  1. What was the background to the problem addressed in the paper?
  2. What was the objective of the experiments and what was the overall approach?
  3. What was a key method employed by the investigators and how was it applied?
  4. What are the primary experimental results of the work? Explain the data by referring to the figures and tables.
  5. What conclusions are drawn from the work? Are the authors' interpretations consistent with the data presented? What criticisms can be made of the work, and what questions should be addressed next?

Achieving Success in this Course: The best way to achieve success in this course is to read the paper(s) thoroughly before each class period and then review the paper(s) after class. Some students organize groups to go over the papers before and/or after class. In addition, the mid-term exams for the past several years are on e-reserve. They serve as a means to see the kinds of questions asked on the exams and the depth of knowledge required. The format, i.e., the types of questions, is the same for both the mid-term and the final exams. As such, the final exam from previous years is not on e-reserve, and no copies are available to students. Students often organize study groups to decide on the answers to the various questions on previous mid-terms, as answers are not provided.

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Dr. Richard E. Wolf, Jr.
Department of Biological Sciences
1000 Hilltop Circle
Baltimore, MD   21250
Phone: 410-455-2268
Email: wolf@umbc.edu