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Information For Interested Students and Parents

Information For Interested Students and Parents:

The WSSP provides students with the opportunity to participate in an authentic research project with the possibility of publishing their results on the international DNA sequence databases for scientists across the world to use.  In the process, students learn the background and methodologies in molecular biology and bioinformatics that are currently being used in modern biotechnology and academic research laboratories.  Previous WSSP students have commented on how this experience has helped them with admission to college and finding research laboratories to work in as undergraduates.

Students can be involved in the WSSP research project in one of three ways:

1. School Participation:

Students can participate in the WSSP research project if their school has made a commitment to conduct the project in either a class or club setting during the academic year.   A teacher from the school must attend a summer Institute at one of the current WSSP locations in NJ, MD and CA (link to locations page) that is local to their school to learn the background and experiments to lead the research project during the academic year.  One student from each school also attends the summer Institute so that they can help their teacher during the academic year.  Other students from the school are able to participate in the research project during the academic year as part of AP Biology, Honors Biology, or research classes, or in after school clubs.   Since the research project requires the use of school resources and the supervision by a teacher, students wishing to attend a summer Institute or participate in the molecular biology laboratory experiments during the year must have the commitments from their school and teacher participation.  Currently, most of the expenses associated with the laboratory component and bioinformatic analysis are supported through a grant from the National Science Foundation.  For more information about the summer Institutes and academic year activities and requirements for the students, teachers, and schools please click here

2. Individual Participation:

Students are also able to conduct a portion of the research project without participation of a teacher or commitment from their school. 

a) WISE for High School Students: The Waksman Institute Summer Experience (WISE) for High School Students is a non-residential two week summer Institute for high school students to carry out the WSSP research project.  WISE will be held from 9:00 AM to 3:45 PM each day from 7/31/17 to 8/11/17 at the Waksman Institute, Rutgers University, Piscataway NJ.  The 2017 research project will focus on the genomic sequence analysis of the duckweed Landoltia punctata, and how the genes in this organism compare to those found in other species. Duckweed is of scientific and commercial interest for bioremediation and as sources of bioenergy. To begin their work, students will learn the background and use the molecular biology laboratory protocols (DNA purification, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), restriction digests, and agarose gel electrophoresis) to isolate and characterize novel DNA fragments from the duckweed. Students will analyze the DNA sequences of these fragments using the same bioinformatic resources (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool: BLAST) that researchers use. Students will compare their sequence data with genes from other eukaryotes to determine the evolutionary relationships of these organisms and the sequence conservation of specific genes. Once they complete the analysis of their sequences, the WSSP staff will review and publish their findings on the DNA sequence databases.  For more information see the WISE web site.

b) PACS - Online Bioinformatics Analysis of a DNA Sequence: Since many schools are at distances too far from the WSSP locations to participate in summer Institutes, the WSSP offers individual students the opportunity to perform the computational bioinformatic analysis of a novel DNA sequence on their own.  Students will be given access to same online resources that are used by students from schools participating in the full program to learn the background on how to conduct a DNA sequence analysis.  After students have worked through the analysis of several practice DNA sequences, they will each be given their own novel, unknown DNA sequence to analyze.  Once they complete the analysis of this sequence, the WSSP staff will publish their findings on the DNA sequence databases. For more information about participating in the independent bioinformatic analysis component of the project please see the information on PACS. PACs will be available starting in Spring 2017.