Cluster 9

The Building Blocks of Life: Molecules and Cells in Biology

Zhu Wang, PhD
UCSC Department of Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology
James Shanks, PhD
UCSC Department of Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology

Prerequisite: None

Preferences: Familiarity with Biology and Chemistry

Summary: In this cluster, students will learn through lectures how molecules work in cells and how individual cells develop into living organisms. Students will also acquire hands-on wet lab experience in fruit fly genetics and/or molecular cloning, as well as dry lab skills such as basic bioinformatics, critical scientific reading, and paper writing. Field trips to the SLAC National Accelerator Lab and UCSC botanic garden will provide outdoor learning and social opportunities.

All students in this cluster will be enrolled in the following courses:

Cell and Developmental Biology

This course will introduce students to the fundamentals of cell and developmental biology. Topics discussed will include structure, organization, and function of eukaryotic cells. Students will also learn about biological membranes, organelles, protein and vesicular trafficking, cellular interactions, the cytoskeleton, and signal transduction. Topics covering animal development, pattern formation, and genetics will also be discussed. Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) will be used as a model organism to study Mendelian genetics, non-Mendelian genetics, and used as a tool to screen for genetic regions possibly important in Alzheimer’s disease research.

Molecular Biology​

This course will introduce students to multiple molecular biology fundamentals including molecular cloning, bacterial genetic transformation, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), restriction endonucleases, and recombinant expression of a fluorescent protein and its purification using affinity chromatography. Antibiotic resistance is currently a major topic of concern and the frequencies of resistance will be investigated using the antibiotic Rifampicin and a laboratory strain of E. coli. One of the possible solutions to antibiotic resistance is the bacteriophage, a virus that naturally infects bacteria. Students will isolate bacteriophage from organic material and attempt to classify its ability to infect bacteria and its morphological characteristics. Molecular structure of macromolecules including proteins and ribonucleic acids will be discussed and possible field trips may include a visit to the SLAC National Accelerator Lab at Stanford University, many discoveries including how DNA is translated into protein were discovered here.