Bio 181 Molecular Biology Lab Presentations

Spring 2008


Each student will give an oral presentation on May 7th or 12th.  This presentation is worth 40 points, or 7% of your grade in the class.  Presentations will be done individually, and you will sign up for a time.  Presentations should last about 20 minutes, with additional time permitted for questions.  A computer & projector will be available; PowerPoint presentations are strongly recommended but not required.


Your audience is your fellow Bio 181 students; try to teach us all something interesting or useful.  (This means do NOT read a protocol (“Add reagent A.  Incubate 45 minutes at 37 degrees…”).  Don’t be afraid to “go deep”.  The discussion should not be superficial.  Attempts to tackle difficult subject matter will be graded favorably.


On the final exam, a few easy questions based on the content of the oral presentations will be included as an incentive to everyone to pay attention.


A wide range of topics is acceptable.  However, all topics must be approved by me absolutely no later than 2 weeks before you are scheduled to present.  I would be happy to look over an outline of your talk ahead of time if you have questions or concerns.  The same topic cannot be presented by two people in the class, so commit early for your first choice!


Topics should fall into one of two broad categories:


  1.  Molecular biology technology:  Find a molecular biology product or procedure used in research and explain in detail what it is used for, and how it works.  For example,
    1. a specialized DNA polymerase enzyme (other than ordinary Taq) used for certain PCR applications;
    2. specialized technologies for cloning (vectors/plasmids with special features for easy screening of transformants, or to allow production of RNA; protein expression, methods for protein isolation or detection; propagation in both prokaryotes & eukaryotes, etc.).
    3. Microarrays analyzing protein-protein interactions, or protein-DNA interactions, not just DNA-DNA
    4. Real time PCR
    5. Proprietary technologies for nucleic acid labeling and detection
    6. New DNA sequencing technologies
    7. Knockout mice (just won the Nobel prize!), other technologies for genetic manipulation for research
    8. MORE!!!!!!!!


Good places to search for molecular biology products:

New England Biolabs (;;;;; (Clontech & Pharmingen);; Affymetrix (microarrays); vector labs; BioRad


  1. Molecular biology applications:  Molecular biology is being used in all kinds of ways today.  Some applications are very interesting, innovative, or controversial.  Choose one and tell us about it!  NOTE:  These presentations must include information of a “news” type, such as actual examples of the technology’s use, and the social, political, or legal context.  However this is an upper division science course and you are expected to provide a reasonably detailed scientific description of the technology itself.  You can/should use newspapers/newsmagazines but you must also consult more technical sources as well.

For example:

    1. Molecular biology and forensics (police work, paternity testing)
    2. Molecular biology and disease diagnosis, personalized medicine, genetic screening, privacy issues
    3. Genetically-modified organisms (GMO):  plants (plants for food, plants for industrial uses; genetic modifications that enhance crop production vs. modifications that improve the nutritional or other properties of the plant for consumers); animals (using animals to manufacture pharmaceuticals, etc.)
    4. Directed evolution for enzyme production
    5. The Jurassic Park problem (can dinosaurs or other extinct animals be cloned from ancient DNA?)
    6. Craig Venter’s (of human genome sequencing fame) projects: to build a viral genome from scratch; to identify hundreds of new species of bacteria by molecular methods only (the Sorcerer II expedition)
    7. Development of biopolymers (replacements for synthetic molecules currently manufactured from petroleum products.  Biopolymers will be made using plant carbohydrates under the catalytic direction of bacterial enzymes.)
    8. Biofuels (using molecular biology to alter bacterial metabolism to allow the production of fuels like ethanol, butanol, hydrogen from cellulose & other waste)
    9. MORE!!!  Watch the headlines!  The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist are excellent sources of information on biotechnology.
    10. Research projects you are personally working on may be acceptable.
    11. NO stem cell research.  This work is not yet understood at a molecular level, so while it is of contemporary significance, it is not an appropriate topic.


You will be graded on (in decreasing order of importance):


CONTENT:  Accurate, thorough investigation of the chosen topic.

ORGANIZATION & CLARITY:  Suitable introduction and conclusion/summary.  Key points are highlighted and presented in logical order.  Listeners leave the room with a solid understanding of the subject.  Good use of visual aids. 

STYLE:  Speaker is well prepared, makes eye contact with audience, projects voice appropriately, doesn’t rush, handles questions well.


Some actual topics presented in the past:

Pyrosequencing; electrophoretic microchips; AFLP; telomerase assays; Invitrogen Gateway cloning system; Protein microarrays; Gene therapy; synthetic spider silk; cloning ancient DNA; Mitochondrial DNA; STR Mosaicism/Forensics; Thermostable DNA polymerases; Green Fluorescent Protein; GMOs; a variety of personal research projects; Capillary electrophoresis; Transfection strategies; Craig Venter’s Sorcerer II; PCR Forensics; Site directed mutagenesis; Genetic disease screening; Molecular ID of microbes; Fluorescent in situ hybridization; Gene gun; RNA interference / gene silencing; Dynabeads; transposons; quantitative real-time PCR; pharmacogenomics; nucleic acid amplification testing for viruses