BU Science Lab Students Sequence 50th Genome!
For scientists, sequencing a genome is truly cause for celebration.
Which is exactly why Bellevue University Science Lab faculty and students gathered recently at a pizza party to mark an important Lab milestone – sequencing 50 genomes from all around the world.
According to Dr. John Kyndt, Associate Professor in the College of Science and Technology, sequencing a genome is an important step toward decoding an organism, which is the ultimate goal. As he describes it, that journey of understanding is serious business, to be sure, but it is also a fun process of discovery for both veteran scientists and the undergraduate microbiology students at Bellevue University.
“Sequencing genomes is key to advancing science,” explains Dr. Kyndt. Every living organism includes genomes, which are composed of the organism’s DNA. And whether they belong to human DNA, bacteria, viruses or other simple forms of life, he adds, sequenced genomes provide a roadmap that help scientists find genes and better understand how the genes work together to direct an organism’s growth and development.
As one of the most technologically advanced small labs in Nebraska, Bellevue University’s Science Lab allows students to get directly involved in genome sequencing projects. “Students are at the center of our open access, innovative environment” said Dr. Mary Dobransky, Dean of the College of Science and Technology. Ten genome sequences from organism samples have been published in academic journals and “more are on the way,” says Dr. Kyndt.
“With administration support – and some pizza – we are able to get amazing results in our student-driven research projects.” – Dr. John Kyndt, Assistant Professor, Bellevue University
Because of their important foundational role, scientists around the world study and sequence genomes. Perhaps the most high profile genome study is the Human Genome Project, a 13-year effort to identify all of the 20,000-plus genes in human DNA that was completed early, in 2003, largely due to technological automation.
Technology has accelerated Bellevue University’s efforts, too. Thanks to a partnership with Illumina, a global leader in Next Generation, or high-throughput, genomics, Bellevue University undergraduate students have learned how to use cutting-edge genomic sequencing software – all the way from how to extract DNA from a sample to how to run the samples through the Illumina MiniSeq system.
Amiera Rayyan, who completed her Bachelor of Science in Biology at Bellevue University in 2018, was among the first to use the MiniSeq system and as a result received lead author credit on two research papers published in academic journals. Sydney Robertson, another biology graduate who also has earned lead author credit on multiple published academic research papers, says, “The experience I had was more than just helpful in the classroom. I was able to collaborate with the professors and other institutions, really learning how to communicate effectively.”
As the success experienced by students like Amiera and Sydney and the genome sequencing continues in the University’s Science Lab, Dr. Kyndt says the impact – on science and on students – should never be underestimated. “It is very rare that undergraduates get published in a scientific, peer-reviewed journal, especially as the lead author,” he notes. “We are able to give students this opportunity because of our smaller class sizes, close professor involvement, and a deliberate focus to integrate more real-life research.”
Story written by Cris Hay-Merchant, Director of Strategic Communications at Bellevue University.