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December 28, 2009


Eight students enrolled in Dr. Kim Borges’ genetics class at UMFK had the opportunity during the mid-October break to attend a molecular biology research techniques course at Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratories (MDIBL) in Bar Harbor, Maine. They attended along with students from the University of Maine at Presque Isle, also enrolled in a genetics class with Dr. Bonnie Wood.

A Maine IDeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence grant paid for the students from the two campuses to take the course. The grant also provides for one student from each institution to perform a summer internship at the Bar Harbor lab.

The students performed an experiment on certain genes (Hox genes) that control limb growth in organisms. Specifically, the students examined the DNA sequencing of Hox genes of skate fish and compared them with Hox genes found in chickens to determine their similarity.

The experiment included using polymerase chain reaction machine to make copies of certain DNA segments extracted from the Hox genes. After, a DNA sequencing machine separated the large and small DNA samples.  The students then used technology to locate where the Hox genes were active in the development of skate fish and chicken embryos.

Approximately half of each class attended the short course at MDIBL, along with Dr. Wood. The remaining students from each institution participated in a molecular biology project at UMFK under the supervision of Dr. Borges.

Shanae Armstrong, a junior biology major at UMFK was one of the participants at the MDIBL course. She was impressed with the equipment available at the laboratory, as well as the opportunity to put theory into practice.

“Everything that I knew in theory I was able to apply practicably,” she said. “It was a great experience.”

Joining Armstrong at the MDIBL course were: Kumiko Chow, Heather DeCotes, Jodie Faucher, Kerry Hafford, Charles Michaud, Andrew Albert, and Julie Trudel.

Near the end of the semester, the UMFK and UMPI genetics classes later met at Eureka Hall in New Sweden for the 3rd biennial genetics symposium. The students who attended the MDIBL short course, as well as the students who participated in the project at UMFK, each presented oral reports on their research projects for the semester.