Written Assignment (Due Week 7)

In Week 5, each student will be given an abstract describing scientific studies related to material covered in the first four class sessions. Using material in the abstract, students will be expected to write a written summary of the study with the following elements:

  1. An appropriate title for the full paper
  2. At least two appropriate experiments that could allow researchers to arrive at the key conclusions stated in the abstract. Experiments must be described in terms of overall method (including necessary major reagents and equipment), appropriate samples, and the key positive and negative controls required.
  3. The expected results from each proposed experiment, with a brief summary that outlines possible outcomes and how they might support or contradict key results described in the abstract. Students are encouraged to draw a possible figure that might accompany each result, again highlighting positive and negative controls. Each assignment is expected to be less than four written pages (11 pt, Times New Roman), not including any figures. Although material in the abstract might make the paper easily identifiable, students must not look up the original paper. The purpose of this assignment is to learn how to extend the techniques and knowledge of various RNA species learned in previous sessions to relevant problems in RNA biology. The instructors will be available to discuss the abstracts and the written assignments before the due date.

Oral Presentation (Due Week 14)

At the end of the course, students will present a research publication to the class. Although we will have discussed the existence and functions of many different RNA classes, a new field is currently heating up: RNA structure and modification. Not only is there an incredible cellular diversity of RNA molecules within a cell, many of these RNA molecules can undergo conformational changes and chemical modifications to their bases, changing their function in possibly exciting yet currently unknown ways. Students will pick papers from a list of publications covering the field of RNA structure and modifications. Each presentation should use 8–12 slides, with slides for an introduction and a short background to the paper, the key question investigated, and the crucial experiments and controls. Finally, students should include a discussion slide to summarize the key results from the paper and the remaining outstanding questions. We will discuss both the content of presentations as well as possible improvements to the presentation style.