Syllabus: 2010 RIBS Program

Research in the Biological Sciences (RIBS 2010)
A Laboratory Course In Molecular and MicroBiology
June 21 -July 16, 2010

Course Instructors:
Chris Schonbaum (; (773) 702-2154; BSLC 215)
Rosemary Zaragoza (; (773) 702-2018; BSLC 211)

Course description:

During RIBS, you will be exposed to a broad range of molecular, genetic and cellular biological techniques currently used in research laboratories. You will be trained in laboratory research; however, the emphasis is on the training rather than on the projects. The main goals of RIBS are to teach you some basic lab skills and to give you the confidence to work in a research laboratory. On a space-available basis, we will invite back students the following summer to carry out a research project in one of the faculty labs on campus.

Course objectives:

  • Develop skills and confidence important for succeeding in a laboratory.
  • Learn some basic lab operations and techniques.
  • Learn how to design and carry out a research project.
  • Learn how to present results clearly and concisely
  • Develop skills important for productive collaborations - working in groups 


The class will run from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM with an hour break for lunch. Most of the time will be spent in lab. Background lectures will supplement the labs.

Lab notebooks:

Students will receive a lab manual with detailed instructions for each of the labs. Students are required to keep a lab notebook; spiral bound notebooks will be available for purchase.


  • Lab journals (notebooks) 35%
  • Presentations 15%
  • Final paper/presentation 25%
  • Class Participation 25%


  • Goals and overview of RIBS
  • Lab Safety
  • Lab Basics – how to use micropipetters, how to prepare solutions, how to plan an experiment, etc.
  • C. elegans Project – students will clone a gene from the nematode C. elegans. The following week, we will examine effects on the development of the nematode when this gene is inactivated using RNA interference.
  • Microbiology Basics - students will learn basic techniques in working with bacteria, including purification of isolates and Gram staining.
  • Lake Water Bacteria – students will measure total bacteria as well as levels of the sewage indicator species, E. coli.


  • Human Taste Receptor Variation – Can you taste it? We take a classic and common genetic test for the ability to taste the bitter compound PTC and add a molecular twist to it. Students will PCR amplify the PTC receptor from their own DNA and submit the PCR products for DNA sequencing. The goal will be to identify the genetic basis for differences in the ability to taste PTC. Later in the week, students will analyze the DNA sequence of their taste receptor gene and correlate particular variations with the ability to taste PTC.
  • Microscopy basics - students will learn how to use microscopes (including phase contrast and differential interference contrast (DIC) optics).
  • C. elegans Project – students will begin the study of C. elegans development. Using the technique of RNA interference (RNAi), we will knock out expression of genes required for normal development and osmotic resistance in the worm.
  • Lake Water Bacteria – continue identification of E. coli among the bacterial isolates using both classic microbiological methods and clinical tests (Enterotube).
  • Fluorescence Microscopy – examine organelles and structures within the cell using fluorescence microscopy.
  • Exercise Physiology – in this "PE" component of RIBS, students will see how their own bodies respond to short periods of exercise. By measuring how much oxygen they consume and how much carbon dioxide they exhale while pedaling a bicylce ergometer relative to the amounts at rest, students will be able to calculate their metabolic rate.
  • Presentations – based on an assigned topic.
  • Group Projects - students select projects


  • Group Projects - students begin working on group projects.
  • Presentations – based on readings of original research papers.


  • Group Projects
  • Complete projects.
  • Prepare reports and poster presentations on projects.
  • Poster presentations (last day of class).