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Biodiversity Blog


New Lab Space Promotes Freshmen Research in Biodiversity

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 Students in Biodiversity Discovery stream.

With construction completed in 1933, Painter Hall has been around long enough to see plenty of renovations. One of the most recent is the addition of a brand-new lab space currently in use by students in the Biodiversity Discovery and Bugs in Bugs FRI (Freshmen Research Initiative) Streams. The lab provides UT freshmen an authentic research experience where they get to work on real research questions at the start of their time as UT students.

The space has a dry lab area where students work with microscopes to identify specimens. The Bugs in Bugs stream works with bacteria, so students isolate and culture bacteria. The space also has a full molecular wet lab where students do DNA extraction, gel electrophoresis, and PCR. PCR is “polymerase chain reaction,” a method widely used in molecular biology to make many copies of a specific DNA segment.

This spring semester, about 100 students are using the lab. About 65 students just started working in January and 34 are returning students who have completed the FRI program. They stay on to continue their research as well as teach new students.

The Biodiversity Discovery looks at the total diversity of life, in plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms. It is led by research educator Dr. Susan Cameron Devitt and PIs Dr. David Hillis and Dr. David Canatella. The Bugs in Bugs is lead by research educator Dr. Jo-Anne Holley and PI Dr. Nancy Moran. This stream allows students to explore the gut microbiota and pathogens of insects to understand how they affect the health and function of their hosts.

The Freshman Research Initiative has dozens of research streams in which students work alongside scientists. For a glimpse of all current research streams and the faculty members and research educators leading them, browse by using this PDF guide.

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 Students with Dr. Jo-Anne Holley in Bugs in Bugs stream.  New lab space.
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