The IGTRCN’s 2016 technical course: Insect Genetic Technologies: Theory and Practice from July 24-29 was a great success based on student feedback during and after the course.
Twentyfour ‘students’ ranging from early-stage doctoral students to tenured professors worked hard on developing a solid foundation of knowledge and skills that would enable them to take on the challenges of genetically manipulating insects with the latest technologies.
While a week is not enough time to master the technical skills required for delivering various technologies to insect germ-lines everyone left empowered with enough knowledge and skills to move them up the precipitous learning curve that must be conquered in order to be able to wield the various technologies now available to insect biologists.
The course was structured to economize the students’ time and to keep the density of the course content high. The students attended two lectures a day (from 6 different lecturers) and 2 or 3 laboratory modules per day (each was approximately 2 hours).
The course was held in the University of Maryland’s Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research’s Insect Transformation Facility which is nicely equipped with a large microinjection suite with 4 fully functional microinjection stations, each configured somewhat differently so students could work with different equipment. Some microscopes were equipped with cameras and large displays that facilitated demonstrations and critiques
Students worked in teams of three students and these teams changed daily to maximize student interactions. The teams were divided into two groups and each group of teams worked on a separate lab module that allowed the class to be spread out within various labs, including a computer lab for 3 modules on gene editing, allowing all students to be active at all times.
While students spent their first two days working on Aedes aegypti to learn the “basics”, on day 3 other species were introduced and by the end of the course students had an opportunity to work with or observe others working with 13 species from 5 orders of insects.
Aedes aegypti, Anopheles gambiae, Anopheles stephensi, Culex tarsalis, Drosophila melanogaster, Lutziomyia longipalpis, Tribolium castaneum, Spodoptera frugiperda, Nasonia vitripennis, Apis mellifera, Polistes dominula, Polistes exclamans, Bemisia tabaci
On Wednesday afternoon the class made an excursion to Washington D. C. for some sightseeing and dinner at a local brewery.
By the end of the week, although everyone was fatigued from all of the work, there was a clear sense of excitement as everyone looked forward to incorporating their newfound knowledge and skills into their research programs. They certainly left with a long list of colleagues with whom they can consult and share ideas.