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Molecular Genetics Lab

Many ecological, behavioral, and macro evolutionary studies benefit from some "molecular biology," but it's often difficult for researchers to gain access to the methods, materials, and machines needed. It's our hope that the department can facilitate these approaches for EEB students by developing a molecular biology facility for their use.
   It's not uncommon for an EEB student to need to do "a little" molecular biology, to compliment a thesis project that is, for example, mostly behavioral. EEB has designated lab space, funding for equipment, and salary for a part time "director" to keep the facility up to specs and offer hands-on training. Ongoing studies include paternity determination in zebras and orb spiders, mapping a polymorphic developmental trait in aphids, and studying population structure in cicadas and trematodes.
   The lab was originally envisioned as a specifically molecular genetic facility: the isolation, amplification, and analyses of DNA. Thus, the department invested in PCR machines, a PCR clean hood, gel boxes, and a gel visualization set-up; and we have contacts with sequencing centers and the Princeton microarray facility. Also available are multi-channel pipettes, microplate technology, and various incubators are helpful to students who are not all doing explicitly DNA work.
   The newest lab acquisition is a LI-COR 4300 DNA analyzer. Part of the cost of the instrument was provided by a grant from LI-COR, that they give to schools that will use the LI-COR for undergraduate teaching. LI-COR’s greatest strength will be the ability to dof microsatellite and AFLP analyses.

Fig. 1. Benches of Pipettes. Pipettes are the heart of molecular biology, which is all done in microliters (unless you’ve moved on to nanodrops). The little plant is an orchid, a Dendrobium kingianum.

Fig. 2. Kodak Gel Documentation.

Fig. 3. Hybridization oven. It heats, it rocks, it rotates. We have a variety of other incubators, ovens and water baths.

Fig. 4. Dictionaries. Language is never far way.

Fig. 5. Thermocyclers/clean hood. We have two basic PCR machines (real-time cyclers are available in MolBio). There are various blocks available, and 96 well plates are accommodated. While thermocyclers are rather specialized, the clean/sterile hood in the background may have applications beyond setting up PCR reactions. It should be adequate for lite tissue culture, bacteriology, sterile germination of orchid seed, etc.

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Fig. 5 | Photos: Tom Doak