1887

Who Scared the Cat? A Molecular Crime Scene Investigation Laboratory Exercise

    Authors: Laura E. Ott1,*, Susan D. Carson2
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    Affiliations: 1: College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD 21250; 2: Department of Plant and Microbial Biology and Division of Academic and Student Affairs, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 02 December 2016
    • ©2016 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    • [open-access] This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ and https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode), which grants the public the nonexclusive right to copy, distribute, or display the published work.

    • Supplemental materials available at http://asmscience.org/jmbe
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: University of Maryland, Baltimore County, College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250. Phone: 410-455-8089. Fax: 410-455-5831. E-mail: leott@umbc.edu.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 451-457. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1122
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    Abstract:

    This introductory laboratory exercise gives first-year life science majors or nonmajors an opportunity to gain knowledge and experience in basic bioinformatics and molecular biology laboratory techniques and analysis in the context of a mock crime scene investigation. In this laboratory, students determine if a human (Lady) or dog (Kona) committed the fictional crime of scaring a cat. Students begin by performing PCR using provided dog- and human-specific PCR primers to determine the sequences to be amplified and predict PCR amplicon sizes. They then BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool) the PCR results to confirm that the PCR primers are designed to amplify genomic fragments of the cardiac actin gene in both dogs and humans. Finally, they use DNA quantification techniques, PCR, and agarose gel electrophoresis to identify the culprit and they confirm results by analyzing Sanger sequencing. Student learning gains were demonstrated by successful execution of the lab and by analysis and interpretation of data in the completion of laboratory reports. The student learning gains were also demonstrated by increased performance on a post-laboratory assessment compared to the pre-assessment. A post-activity assessment also revealed that students perceived gains in the skills and conceptual knowledge associated with the student learning outcomes. Finally, assessment of this introductory molecular biology and bio-informatics activity reveals that it allows first-year students to develop higher-order data analysis and interpretation skills.

Key Concept Ranking

Agarose Gel Electrophoresis
0.6020601
Bioinformatics Techniques
0.45824465
Molecular Techniques
0.43515992
0.6020601

References & Citations

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2. American Association for the Advancement of Science2011Vision and change in undergraduate biology education: a call to actionAmerican Association for the Advancement of ScienceWashington, DC
3. Arwood L2004Teaching cell biology to nonscience majors through forensics, or how to design a killer courseCell Biol Educ313113810.1187/cbe.03-12-002315257341437644 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.03-12-0023
4. Chiou S-H, Chow K-C, Yang C-H, Chiang S-F, Lin C-H2005Discovery of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-encoded RNA signal and EBV nuclear antigen leader protein DNA sequence in pet dogsJ Gen Virol8689990510.1099/vir.0.80792-015784884 http://dx.doi.org/10.1099/vir.0.80792-0
5. Dinsdale E, et al2015NIBLSE: A network for integrating bioinformatics into life sciences educationCBE Life Sci Educ14le3264669894710410
6. Emmert EAB2013Biosafety guidelines for handling microorganisms in the teaching laboratory: development and rationaleJ Microbiol Biol Educ141788310.1128/jmbe.v14i1.531238583563706168 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/jmbe.v14i1.531
7. Fuselier L, Bougary A, Malott M2011From trace evidence to bioinformatics: putting bryophytes into molecular biology educationBiochem Mol Biol Educ39384610.1002/bmb.2045821433251 http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bmb.20458
8. Kent WJ, et al2002The human genome browser at UCSCGenome Res12996100610.1101/gr.229102Article published online before print in May 200212045153186604 http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/gr.229102
9. Li J, et al2013A myristoylated alanine-rich C kinase substrate–related peptide suppresses cytokine mRNA and protein expression in LPS-activated canine neutrophilsAm J Respir Cell Mol Biol48331432110.1165/rcmb.2012-0278OC3604091 http://dx.doi.org/10.1165/rcmb.2012-0278OC
10. Lounsbury KM2003Crime scene investigation: an exercise in generating and analyzing DNA evidenceBiochem Mol Biol Educ31374110.1002/bmb.2003.494031010166 http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bmb.2003.494031010166
11. McNamara-Schroeder K, et al2006DNA fingerprint analysis of three short tandem repeat (STR) loci for biochemistry and forensic science laboratory coursesBiochem Molecular Biol Educ3437838310.1002/bmb.2006.494034052665 http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bmb.2006.494034052665
12. North Carolina State UniversityGEP category requirementsOffice of Undergraduate Courses and Curricula and Academic Standards[Online.] https://oucc.dasa.ncsu.edu/general-education-program-gep/gep-category-requirements/
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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1122
2016-12-02
2017-11-18

Abstract:

This introductory laboratory exercise gives first-year life science majors or nonmajors an opportunity to gain knowledge and experience in basic bioinformatics and molecular biology laboratory techniques and analysis in the context of a mock crime scene investigation. In this laboratory, students determine if a human (Lady) or dog (Kona) committed the fictional crime of scaring a cat. Students begin by performing PCR using provided dog- and human-specific PCR primers to determine the sequences to be amplified and predict PCR amplicon sizes. They then BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool) the PCR results to confirm that the PCR primers are designed to amplify genomic fragments of the cardiac actin gene in both dogs and humans. Finally, they use DNA quantification techniques, PCR, and agarose gel electrophoresis to identify the culprit and they confirm results by analyzing Sanger sequencing. Student learning gains were demonstrated by successful execution of the lab and by analysis and interpretation of data in the completion of laboratory reports. The student learning gains were also demonstrated by increased performance on a post-laboratory assessment compared to the pre-assessment. A post-activity assessment also revealed that students perceived gains in the skills and conceptual knowledge associated with the student learning outcomes. Finally, assessment of this introductory molecular biology and bio-informatics activity reveals that it allows first-year students to develop higher-order data analysis and interpretation skills.

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Figures

Image of FIGURE 1

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FIGURE 1

Flowchart for the crime scene laboratory activity. These are the five parts to this crime scene lab, with the approximate timing of each. It is recommended that the activity span three 3-hour laboratory sessions, with parts 1, 2, and 3 performed in session 1, part 4 in session 2, and part 5 in session 3. PCR = polymerase chain reaction; DNA = deoxyribonucleic acid; BLAST = basic local alignment search tool.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 451-457. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1122
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Image of FIGURE 2

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FIGURE 2

Representative agarose gel electrophoresis results from a student PCR. The sizes (base pairs; bp) of the low DNA mass ladder are depicted on the left. The samples were loaded in the following order (left to right): low DNA mass ladder (ladder), Kona control DNA in dog PCR master mix (MM), Lady control DNA in human MM, crime scene DNA in dog MM, crime scene DNA in human MM. Expected dog and human PCR amplicons are observed in the Kona control (275 bp) and Lady control (397 bp) samples, respectively. This gel depicts Lady (human) as the culprit, as there is an approximate 400 bp band in the crime scene sample in human MM. PCR = polymerase chain reaction; DNA = deoxyribonucleic acid; MM = master mix.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 451-457. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1122
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Image of FIGURE 3

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FIGURE 3

Pre- and post-quiz results from the fall 2014 and spring 2015 semesters. Median scores (with upper and lower limits) are displayed, with 16 students completing the pre- and post-quizzes in fall 2014 and seven students completing the quizzes in spring 2015. Data was analyzed with a Wilcoxon signed-rank test (SPSS Statistics, version 22), with -values displayed.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 451-457. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1122
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