Grant: $110,149 - National Science Foundation - Aug. 3, 2009
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Award Description: The squid-Vibrio fischeri symbiosis has emerged as an engaging and important model for studying animal colonization by bacteria. The availability of several sequenced genomes in the genus Vibrio, has made this a more powerful system than ever for elucidating the complex gene networks that enable the contrasting lifestyles of bacteria. For this molecular genetics project which integrates research and education, the investigators will construct mutant bacteria with defects in each of the more than four thousand bacterial genes present in V. fischeri. This tool for discovery will then be used to characterize bacterial traits relevant to animal colonization in high-throughput assays by six research teams comprised almost entirely of undergraduate researchers. This library of mutants, along with data from the multiple parallel assays, will provide a high-resolution network of functionally-related datasets indexed by gene that will provide an unprecedented view of gene function in the context of the entire genomes. This library of mutants will be publicly available for bioinformatics analysis, and thus will fuel the next generation of experiments. Research increasingly involves high-throughput molecular genetic and genomics-based strategies for discovery that often necessitate the coordination of large teams. Therefore, the large number of students participating in this project will be well prepared for science careers in the 21st century.
Project Description: The squid-Vibrio association is a well-established model for understanding beneficial bacteria-host interactions. We proposed a coordinated effort to screen the entire Vibrio fischeri genome for genes essential to its ability to establish a relationship with squid. We are developing assays that will enable us to detect specific sets of V. fischeri genes that might be required for colonization. So far, we have designed two screening assays and these have identified about 20 genes that appear to regulate symbiosis-related activities. For example, several of these genes appear to be essential for bacterial adherence to surfaces (such as host tissue). The collective data from these screens, and others in development, will be used to create a public database that will enable larger scale genome function analysis. Recruiting the brightest students into science is most effectively achieved by their involvement in inquiry-based research. Our educational plan will engage a large number of undergraduates in research. Genomics has shaped the current trajectory of research and the next generation of scientists needs to be well versed in cutting edge techniques. This project integrates exciting research with important skill building in both genetics and genomics that will allow students to earn authorship on publications, and prepare them for future careers in research. Due to the elegance of this symbiosis, as well as the fact that Vibrio fischeri is closely related to important pathogens, we can attract a broad range of interested students. We have incorporated into our education plan the use of e-portfolios to assess students learning and track long-term success. Students will create a digital portfolio of their complete body of work, available to faculty, as well as future employers. This will allow us to compile data into a comprehensive report assessing student learning and motivation towards scientific work.
Jobs Summary: In the first few months since the funds were made available, I hired a recent Cal Poly graduate as a full time researcher. This grad student will work until at least May 2010 and is being paid to accomplish two major goals of the grant, which are to assist me in 1) developing screens to detect genes that might be important in beneficial colonization of squid by Vibrio fischeri, and 2) locating the transposon insertion in each of these strains (see below for details). The grad student has also taken on the role of assisting me with training undergraduate research students. Being both a researcher and mentor will give him necessary experience in microbial physiology and molecular genetics research, as well as administrative duties. During the summer months (June-Sept 1) I hired two Cal Poly undergraduate students to work on the project; it is notable that one of the students is a woman and the other is from an underrepresented group. These students worked under the grad student on Goal #1 (above). The students received training that would make them competitive for many future opportunities, such as an entry-level position in a biotechnology company or graduate school research. The male student has graduated and is looking for work in biotechnology. I strongly believe that his time in my lab (especially his time as a salaried researcher) will give him some additional marketable credentials for his resume. In fact, the grad student and male student's accomplishments over the summer are part of a project that will be presented at the 110th American Society for Microbiology General Meeting (May 2010) as well as a manuscript that I am currently writing and planning to submit to Journal of Bacteriology in the next few months. On a personal note, this grant will be the centerpiece of the 'Professional Development' component of my tenure package, which is due in November. My role as principle investigator and student mentor on this project fits perfectly with the ?Teacher-Scholar Model? that has become a strong emphasis at Cal Poly. (Total jobs reported: 1)
Project Status: Less Than 50% Completed
This award's data was last updated on Aug. 3, 2009. Help expand these official descriptions using the wiki below.