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In today’s Class Tips, we dive right into how DNA technology is constantly advancing the science of DNA sequencing, requiring life science students to remain on the leading edge of subject. But students have limited access to the technology and labs that are necessary to master such a complex topic. Most students only hear about the latest advances through university websites and press releases.

 For example, when John Butler, a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) fellow and one of the worlds leading experts in DNA analysis, was making advances in the reliability and speed of DNA analysis, the easiest way to learn about it was in the newspapers who reported on it.

Labster DNA AnimationThankfully for students of DNA sequencing and life sciences in general, the science behind DNA has become somewhat of a phenomenon in pop culture, with the success of television shows like CSI as well as true crime shows like the Serial podcast and HBO’s The Jinx. As Butler said in The Washington Post, “The decisions from the forensic laboratories are very important. We are helping solve crimes. The results from these tests can impact life and liberty.”

This has led to more coverage of advancements in DNA technology and how it plays a role in our lives, allowing students to more easily follow the latest developments in the subject. So when researchers at Penn State announced it was possible to create a ‘genetic mugshot’ from DNA, the media was willing to cover their discovery because of its connection between true crime and popular culture.

But while its amazing that there is so much popular interest in DNA technology, it remains difficult for students to stay on the leading edge of the subject, so we put together the best resources on the web to help you excel in your life science courses.

  • CSI and DNA video series on Video Jug: Richard Saferstein, a former chief forensic scientist, gives expert video explains all the basics about DNA and how it’s used in CSI, answering questions like, “What is DNA and how is it used in CSI? and “When was DNA first used in CSI?” and more.
  • Genetics Society of America PREP Resources: The Genetics Society of America was founded in 1931 and is the professional membership organization for scientific researchers and educators in the field of genetics. This particular exercise couples a classic primary literature paper detailing the process of DNA replication with a set of questions designed to both guide students through the process of reading papers and delve deeply into the critical concept of replication.
  • MIT Life Sciences Open Courseware: MIT has done an amazing job with their Open Courseware initiative and they’ve done the same with their Life Sciences curriculum, where they are a leader in interdisciplinary Life Sciences research and education. Some of their courses include Avoiding Genomic Instability: DNA Replication, the Cell Cycle, and Cancer, and The DNA Damage Response as a Target for Anti-Cancer Therapy.
  • Labster CSI Lab Simulation: The CSI lab explores the principles of Polymerase Chain Reaction and Gel Electrophoresis by taking students through an investigation of a murder mystery.
  • Labster Next Generation Sequencing Virtual Lab: In the Next Generation Sequencing Lab students obtain a hair sample from an ancient Greenland man, extract his DNA and perform DNA sequencing. The Next Generation Sequencing technology uses second-generation DNA sequencing, where users perform sequencing of many samples at the same time, also known as massive parallel sequencing. Next Generation Sequencing has many real –life application scenarios.

Now before you go, check out this awesome video that shows DNA sequencing in action. See you soon!