BMS 401 is truly unique, giving undergraduate students “hands-on” experience on real research projects, supervised directly by research faculty, in an environment that mimics a research laboratory. All students in the course work individually on different projects that stem from larger research programs in BMS research active laboratories. Projects are selected to be suitable for an inexperienced undergraduate student with a basic neuroscience/physiology background, and allow students to experience what it is like to follow a research question, propose hypotheses, design experiments to test hypotheses, analyze and interpret data.
Unique Opportunities for Students in BMS 401:
- Opportunity to perform hands on research in an environment that mimics a real research laboratory, under a Research Active PI
- Students pursue real open-ended research questions
- Course provides a research opportunity for students unable to find a position in laboratory due to limited space or funds
- Students who are curious about research, but not ready to commit to a laboratory can take this course
- Students work closely with faculty
In Dr. Tsunoda’s section, student projects usually involve a combination of approaches, such as genetics, cell biology, biochemistry, and/or behavior, using Drosophila melanogaster, as a model organism. Project topics have typically included aspects of how particular ion channels and receptors function in the normal physiology of the behaving animal, how their function is compromised in pathological conditions, and how their expression is regulated by neural activity, age, or disease condition. Questions addressed by students are at the forefront of our understanding, and outcomes have helped direct new avenues of study.
Example Student Project: Three students tested the hypothesis that increased reactive oxygen species (ROS), known to increase with age and Aβ42 expression, mediate the Aβ42-induced reduction in Kv4 protein in brains. Students used transgenic Drosophila lines that over-express superoxide dismutase (SOD) and/or catalase (CAT), which sequentially convert the reactive oxygen species O3– to H2O2, then H2O2 to H2O, respectively; each student was given different combinations of genetic tools to use. They examined whether reducing reactive oxygen species in this way attenuated the loss of Kv4 protein by immunoblot analyses, and/or attenuated known effects of reduced Kv4 on locomotor performance in the aging fly. In these projects, students had to use genetic, biochemical, and behavioral approaches. Since these three students had overlapping goals and techniques, this allowed them to have subgroup meetings to discuss the relevant literature, genetic crosses and technical difficulties, necessary controls, and strategies of how to record and analyze data.
Example Student Project: We used three different genetic mutants, which have been reported to exhibit seizure-like behavior. One of them, paraK1270T (also called GEFS+), exhibits a heat (42 °C)-induced seizure-like behavior, while the others exhibit seizure-like behavior and paralysis following mechanical shock. Three students worked on each of these seizure mutant backgrounds. They tested whether transgenic over-expression of the KNa channel ameliorated either the time to seizure, or time to recovery following seizure. Project results from one of the students showed that over-expression of KNa in paraK1270T indeed reduced the percentage of flies that exhibited seizure-like behavior.
Student Comments on Dr. Tsunoda’s Section of BMS401:
“Not a lot of people get to have the experience of working in a lab….I think this is a great option for individuals who may not have the time/ability to work in a lab to get the same or similar experience.”
“Most lab courses give us a very specific path to follow, but this lab gives us the mobility and freedom to do what we feel is best… this class has provided me my first “real” research experience. Rather than helping someone else on their project, I got to work on something completely by myself on my own time.”
“I have been wanting to try my hand at research for several semesters now. This course opened the window for me and I am going on to more research this summer.”
“This course offered hands-on research that cannot be obtained in other classes.”
“This class actually let me make my own hypotheses and create my own experiments for a project that hasn’t been researched before.”
“Other labs at CSU conduct experiments that have predetermined methods and results. This lab allows students to actually conduct experiments that they create, and interpret their own data to come to a conclusion.”
“This class was unique because it focused more on applying knowledge instead of just memorizing it.”
“I loved the freedom we had and I think that just made me care more about what I was doing.”