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To address a growing need to make research trainees in physiology comfortable with the tools of molecular biology, we have developed a laboratory-intensive course designed for graduate students. This course is offered to a small group of students over a three-week period and is organized such that comprehensive background lectures are coupled with extensive hands-on experience. The course is divided into seven modules, each organized by a faculty member who has particular expertise in the area covered by that module. The modules focus on basic methods such as cDNA subcloning, sequencing, gene transfer, polymerase chain reaction, and protein and RNA expression analysis. Each module begins with a lecture that introduces the technique in detail by providing a historical perspective, describing both the uses and limitations of that technique, and comparing the method with others that yield similar information. Most of the lectures are followed by a laboratory session during which students follow protocols that were carefully designed to avoid pitfalls. Throughout these laboratory sessions, students are given an appreciation of the importance of proper technique and accuracy. Communication among the students, faculty, and the assistant coordinator is focused on when and why each procedure would be used, the importance of each step in the procedure, and approaches to troubleshooting. The course ends with an exam that is designed to test the studentsÂ general understanding of each module and their ability to apply the various techniques to physiological questions.
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