Thesis: DNA and protein sequences provide a molecular fossil record that can be used to study the evolution of life on earth. Or, "Thars gold in them thar hills."


Overview of Project:

We have developed a series of modules that will act as a springboard to empower students who wish to pose evolutionary questions that can be solved by analyzing molecular data. To accomplish this end, students must have a user-friendly interface that e nables them to access DNA and protein databases, perform alignments and produce distance matrices and phylogenetic trees in order to answer their questions. The Biology Workbench (hereafter known simply as the workbench), developed by NCSA, provide s this user-friendly interface.

The first part of the project, titled Procedures for using the NCSA Biology Workbench, will provide students a carefully planned trip through the workbench. The second part of the project provides a series of activity modules that progressively increase in difficulty.

Module 1: An introduction to the Biology Workbench—searches, alignments and trees

This module has two purposes: (1) to introduce the student to the Biology Workbench by providing a tutorial that leads the student through the interface, culminating in phylogenetic trees and distance matrices; (2) to have the students attempt to make evolutionary sense of the results. This module contains two activities. The first activity is an example of how protein sequence evidence can be used to draw conclusions about the evolutionary history of the major groups of life on earth. The second activ ity involves DNA sequences and their use in testing phylogenetic hypotheses about HIV evolution.

Module 2: Evolutionary Implications of Protein and DNA Evidence

This module provides several activities that are somewhat more open-ended. In this module, the activities expect the student to be able to navigate through the Biology Workbench. Activities include: (1) mitochondrial evolution: a story of endosymbiosis ; (2) relationship between HIV evolution and host progression to AIDS; (3) sodium channels: a revealing story about the evolution of tissues, organs and taxa.

Module 3: Student Designed Experiments

In this module, students will pose an evolutionary question, design a procedure analysis, and interpret their data in an evolutionary context.


This page created and maintained by Kristian N. Engelsen.
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