Essays on Science and SocietyIBI* Series Winner

Aipotu: Simulation from Nucleotides to Populations and Back Again

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Science  27 Jul 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6093, pp. 424-425
DOI: 10.1126/science.1215105

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Imagine an undergraduate research project where students are given samples of an uncharacterized plant species. The flowers in these samples appear in several different colors, and the students' task is to not only discover how these colors are produced but also construct a plant with a novel flower color. They begin by crossing plants to determine what color alleles are present and how these alleles interact. Students then investigate the biochemical mechanism behind color formation and the DNA sequences responsible for each color allele and use this information to engineer a transgenic plant strain with a novel flower color. Finally, they undertake a long-term study of the evolution of flower color in this species. This “flower-engineering” project would give students the opportunity to develop and test hypotheses in an authentic research environment.