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NSF Grant and ABI Gift Enables Seattle-Area Undergrads to Sequence, Analyze Bacteria

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — Undergraduates at Seattle-area Bellevue Community College will use a new Applied Biosystems sequencer and around $500,000 in grants to study a bacterium that may help combat root disease in wheat and barley, according to the school.
The three-year project, announced earlier this month, will use $478,000 from the National Science Foundation and $10,000 from chemical supplier Univar, and will work with partners from the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service at Washington State University to sequence and analyze the genome of Pseudomona fluorescens.
The students will submit the results of their work to the National Center for Biotechnology’s global genomic library, BCC said.
BCC will use the funds to buy an ABI 3130 sequencer, and the company will contribute in-kind support toward the purchase, BCC said.
If the project is successful, the school will apply for an additional $2 million grant aimed at disseminating the program to other community colleges around the country, BCC professor and project director Gita Bangera told GenomeWeb Daily News yesterday.  
The students will sequence a “small fragment library” provided by the USDA and  “run the sequence in both directions using forward and reverse primers,” Bangera said of the project.
Bangera said in a press release that the project will give BCC students “the chance to grapple with the complexities and ambiguities of real research instead of doing 'canned' lab exercises that produce a predetermined result.”
She said the students “will actually step beyond their role as knowledge consumers to become knowledge producers,” adding that such experience is “all too rare at the undergraduate level.”
Bangera said she also hopes this kind of research will prod undergrads to veer toward molecular biology.
“The need for employees with expertise in this field is expected to far exceed the number of trained graduates,” Bangera said. One of the primary goals is to “give students the confidence to see themselves as scientists,” she added.

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