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Taking a Leadership Role
D
r. Gartenberg is in the midst of his three-year-
minimum commitment as an instructor of yeast
genetics and genomics at Cold Spring Harbor
Laboratory. It's a rigorous schedule, demanding 16-hour
days or longer during the extent of the course, combining lec-
tures and hands-on experimental techniques. Dr. Gartenberg
says his particular expertise in the area of microscopy com-
plemented the skills of the course's other main instructors:
Grant W. Brown, PhD, professor of biochemistry, University
of Toronto, who specializes in genomics; and Maitreya
Dunham, associate professor of genome sciences, University
of Washington, and formerly a Lewis-Siglar Fellow at
Princeton University, whose strength is evolutionary biology.
Their lectures and experimental work were supplemented by
nearly two dozen guest lecturers who are counted among the
leaders in their respective fields, Dr. Gartenberg notes.
He was recommended for this role by the outgoing course
instructor Jeffrey S. Smith, PhD, who is now a professor of
biochemistry and molecular genetics at the University of
Virginia School of Medicine. Dr. Smith was once a graduate
student of Dr. Gartenberg's colleague Monica J. Roth, PhD,
professor of pharmacology at the medical school.
"I once thought the instructors were the ones who didn't
run fast enough, like the gazelles on the Serengeti," Dr.
Gartenberg jokes. "I did not calculate how satisfying it would
be to essentially pass along 20 years of knowledge in the field
in such a short period of time. Throughout those three weeks,
you can watch the lightbulbs go on as students start to under-
stand techniques, get new ideas. You just know they're going
to do great things one day. It's very satisfying to have played
a role in some way in that growth."
Students come from around the world, with a range of
backgrounds, Dr. Gartenberg says: a few professors who are
planning to begin using yeast in their lab for research; post-
doctoral students who are using yeast for the first time; and
graduate students who are sent by professors interested in
using yeast for research. The idea for all of them is to learn the
techniques involved--from the most basic methods to the lat-
est ones--and disseminate them to scientists in their own labs.
The agenda for a typical day gives a hint of the intensity of the
program. Students head to the lab by 9 a.m., when they will
receive their "marching orders," outlining the program and
experiments planned for the day. A one-hour lecture on a topic
related to genetics follows, with a break before lunch and then a
return to work on the day's modules. At 4 p.m., a guest lecturer
gives a two-hour talk devoted to his or her area of expertise.
Then it's off to dinner, after which it's back to the lab to work on
experiments for the rest of the evening, if needed. Although no
official educational programs are planned at night, instructors
and teaching assistants are available for questions and assistance
with those modules every evening, often until later than 1 a.m.
With 11 different modules in the course, instructors could
be shepherding students through 10 different experiments on
any given day, Dr. Gartenberg says. Multiply that work over
the 21 days of the course, and it's easy to see how it has been
a breeding ground for fresh discoveries in the field.
"When you bring people with different areas of expertise and
put them in an incubator for three weeks, a lot of great ideas go
back and forth, and things really begin to crystallize," he says.
Bringing the Knowledge Home
D
r. Gartenberg has felt the impact on his own research
at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. "What I
learned the first time I was an instructor for this
course outstripped everything I knew up to that point," he
Y
east cells, like human cells, are
eukaryotic--in other words, each cell con-
sists of a nucleus and other common organelles
within a cell membrane. Yeast cells share many genes
in common with human cells and are easily adapted to
genetic analysis, making them ideal as a representative
model of all eukaryotic cells.
A few other qualities lend themselves
to use in research:
The entire sequence of yeast cells' 16 chromosomes is
known, making them the first eukaryotic microorganism
whose genome has been entirely characterized.
They are easy to mutate and modify.
They reproduce quickly and easily.
They are single-celled, therefore less complex (yet they con-
tain more than 1,000 genes whose human counterparts are
linked to human diseases).
They are relatively safe to work with.
There is a comprehensive set of genome-wide tools for cell
biology, genetics, and biochemistry.
In addition, researchers have the added benefits of an expan-
sive community of colleagues who work with yeast, as well as
the opportunity to attend the three-week intensive course on
principles and practices of yeast research at Cold Spring Harbor
Laboratory.
Background inset:
Budding yeast viewed with a fluorescence microscope.
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Why Research with Yeast?