Faculty Research at Morehead State University


Using a Thematic Organism across the Curriculum: Analysis of the Protein Composition in Desert Tree Lizard Tissue in Cell Biology and Genetics Laboratories

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The Division of Mathematical and Natural Sciences at the West campus of Arizona State University has adopted a new curriculum leading to a B.S. degree in the Life Sciences. An innovative feature of this curriculum is the inclusion of experimental work with the desert tree lizard (Urosaursus ornatus) in multiple courses to link them together thematically. The experiments conducted in the core courses in Cell Biology and Fundamentals of Genetics are designed to introduce students to techniques in modem cell and molecular biology within the context of the lizard theme. In the laboratory for the Cell Biology course, students perform a 3-week project using SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis to compare the proteins found in various lizard organs including heart and liver. In the laboratory for the Fundamentals of Genetics course, students carry out a 2-week project using nondenaturing gel electrophoresis in agarose gels to study the occurrence of allozymes of aconitate hydratase (EC and NADP+-dependent malate dehydrogenase (EC in different individuals in captive populations of desert tree lizards. In both cases, the students gain experience in casting and running gels, in staining and imaging gels digitally, and in analyzing the images quantitatively. By performing these two linked projects in separate courses, students can see the value of vertical and horizontal gel electrophoresis in different contexts and build on their technical skills as they move through the curriculum.