Podcast Appearance: Toggle Town by Ryan Tomich

I recently met an incredible student from Butte High School, Ryan Tomich, who is interested in making small towns even better through the use of technology. I was fortunate to be a guest on his podcast dedicated to this subject. The questions led me to essentially give a brief summary of my career and also highlighted my recent switch to embracing computational biology in my research and teaching.

Upcoming episodes of this podcast will feature Janet Coe, who will discuss the new Nursing Simulation Lab at Montana Tech. Later, John McKee, will describe his experience with starting a distillery in Butte in Butte, which is aptly called Headframe Spirits.

Current Plan for the Biotechnology Course

This fall, I will be teaching a course titled “Biotechnology: Techniques and Data Analysis” and will use the textbook aptly titled “Biotechnology”.  As I familiarize myself with the book, I have found it difficult to pin down which chapters to cover.  The chapters in the book are as follows:

Chapter 1: Basics of Biotechnology

Chapter 2: DNA, RNA, and Protein

*Chapter 3: Recombinant DNA Technology

*Chapter 4: DNA Synthesis In Vivo and In Vitro

*Chapter 5: RNA-Based Technologies

*Chapter 6: Immune Technology

Chapter 7: Nanobiotechology

*Chapter 8: Genomics and Gene Expression

*Chapter 9: Proteomics

*Chapter 10: Recombinant Proteins

Chapter 11: Protein Engineering

Chapter 12: Environmental Biotechnology

*Chapter 13: Synthetic Biology

Chapter 14: From Cell Phones to Cyborgs

*Chapter 15: Transgenic Plants and Plant Biotechnology

*Chapter 16: Transgenic Animals

Chapter 17: Inherited Defects and Gene Therapy

Chapter 18: Cloning and Stem Cells

Chapter 19: Cancer

Chapter 20: Aging and apoptosis

Chapter 21: Viral and Prion Infections

Chapter 22: Biological Warfare

Chapter 23: Forensic Molecular Biology

*Chapter 24: Bioethics in Biotechnology

(Chapters denoted with an asterisk will be the topics covered in the course.)

One could argue that biotechnology (the modern era at least) started with the development of recombinant DNA technology, so starting with the “Recombinant DNA Technology” chapter is perfect.

Chapters 4, 5, 8, and 9 will essentially walk us through the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology and the techniques that can make use of the cellular processes of this dogma (DNA replication, transcription, and translation).

It might make sense to swap the “Genomics and Gene Expression” topic around with the “Immune Technology” chapter so that we finish up discussing DNA and RNA before moving on to proteins.

Chapter 10’s discussion of “Recombinant Proteins” will see the recombinant DNA technology idea through to its logical conclusion and wrap up the central dogma-centric portion of the course.

The Biotechnology degrees at MSU-Bozeman are split up into three different options: Microbial Systems, Plant Systems, and Animal Systems.  To provide a taste of each of these “systems”, we will cover the chapters on “Synthetic Biology”, “Transgenic Plants and Plant Biotechnology”, and “Transgenic Animals”, respectively.

If time allows, the chapter on “Bioethics in Biotechnology” will be the conclusion of this course.

In total, we are scheduled to cover eleven chapters in the 15-week semester.  From my experience, this should be about the right amount of material but time will tell if it holds true.

Additional assignments will be designed to allow students to explore the remaining topics thus providing some flexibility for students to tailor the course to their interests.