Roanoke selected to collaborate with the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute

SALEM, Va. - Roanoke College's chemistry department has been chosen as one of just 18 undergraduate teams nationally to participate in The Undergraduate Research Program in Microbial Genome Annotation. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute.

Using specialized JGI annotation software tools, Assistant Biochemistry Professors Dr. Cathy Sarisky and Dr. Timothy Johann will lead select students in biochemistry classes in the analysis of genomic pathways of microbial organisms assigned by the JGI. A genome is the complete set of an organism's genetic material. The program will begin next year, and when the student researchers have completed the analysis, their data will be incorporated into public databases and will be publishable.

Sarisky attended a January workshop at the institute in Walnut Creek, Calif., where she met with some of the JGI scientists and project collaborators from undergraduate institutions across the country. She also was trained in how to teach the highly specific annotation tools to her students. "I'm really looking forward to putting some of this to use with research students right away and with students in classes in spring," she said.

"It will give students a chance to learn to use a variety of genomics/bioinformatics tools. These are tools used by researchers, not just student tools," Sarisky said. "We'll take those genomics tools and use them to find interesting genes, and then we're going to get back into the wet lab and do some functional genomics- my students will get to be the first ones to actually produce and study these proteins."

Dr. Gary Hollis, department chair and professor of organic chemistry, said, "Our department is pleased to be part of this project that is national in scope [and] will offer significant educational opportunities for our students."

"Functional characterization of newly sequenced organisms is a pretty exciting program to find at an undergraduate college," said Sarisky. "It will be something that makes our biochemistry program unique in the region."

The goal of JGI's Microbial Genome Annotation program is to support the use of annotation to teach curricular standards in new ways. In turn, the undergraduate collaborators provide the institute with valuable new annotation data, which assists it in filling in gaps in sequencing research.

Roanoke College, an independent, co-educational, four-year liberal arts college in Salem, Virginia, combines firsthand learning with valuable personal connections in a classic, undergraduate setting. Roanoke prepares students for their futures through its commitment to providing a true classic college experience. Roanoke is one of just 280 colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest and most prestigious honor society. The Princeton Review names Roanoke as one of the "best in the Southeast."

Released: February 24, 2011
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