Outreach. Science is critical for our future and believe it or not, science is cool and fun! Sadly, this opinion is often long gone in many adults. One effective remedy for this situation is physically visiting K-12 schools and interacting with young learners. In the Moczek Lab we visit public and private K-12 schools as often as every two to three weeks. Here we teach using modules developed by my host lab. These modules are centered around core objectives of the Indiana Science Teaching Standards and focuses on concepts like ecology, development, and evolution. We practice the scientific method, refine critical thinking skills, and get our hands dirty exploring biology! See HERE for more information.
Teaching. Basic molecular biology skills are the foundation for a wide variety of research fields. Surprisingly, however, many undergraduates have little hands on molecular biology experience, and have often never lifted a pipette. But how can we teach molecular biology skills in a context that is both effective and stimulating? Enter Tribolium castaneum and RNAi. RNAi is technique where specific gene function can be knocked-down simply by injecting double stranded RNA homologous to a gene of interest. This allows a researcher to study the biological consequences when a gene of interest is non-functional. The simplicity of RNAi techniques in Tribolium make this beetle an ideal genetic system for use in a classroom. Over a period of three years, my PhD mentor (Dr. Yoshi Tomoyasu) and I have established a molecular biology course where students choose a gene they are interested in, generate dsRNA homologous to that gene, and perform RNAi in Tribolium. At the end of each semester students then disseminate their results publicly on a webpage (see here: BeetleWiki) thus providing a tool for professional researchers and other students alike. I am eager to continue implementing this course and additionally plan on incorporating other beetle species into the syllabus for additional stimulating biological tools for students to use (such as horned Onthophagus beetle species!).