Sunday, March 26, 2017

Weekly Reflection for Week of March 20th-24th

How did you do on your work?
This week, we did a lot of work with probability and Chi-square analyses as they relate to Mendelian Genetics. Because I took AP Statistics last year, I already knew how to work with probability. I also remembered doing monohybrid crosses in Advanced Bio, but I had to be reminded how to set up dihybrid crosses, etc. so as to avoid huge Punnet squares. We also applied these problem-solving strategies to an activity about Sordaria. 

What do you think you understand well?
As I said, I understand the laws of probability from past experience. Now that I've reviewed it, I also understand well how to calculate the probabilities associated with different genes separately, and solve huge crosses fairly quickly. 

Where do you think you can improve?
I don't understand the "bigger picture" as well. For instance, I was a little confused during the Sordaria lab about what it was we were seeing. 

What strategies will you use to improve?
There was a lot of information attached to that activity, so I could go back and read it more carefully. If I encounter something I don't understand, I could look it up.

How does the work we are doing fit into the context/narrative of the course?
Really, everything we do comes back to DNA, which makes sense; it is arguably the most important molecule for life. In units past, we have learned about the structure and function of DNA, but now we are putting that knowledge to use. The predictable nature of DNA allows us to use probability to determine outcomes when it is passed on from parent to offspring. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Examining Cancer Patient Data Activity

3-2-1 Analysis:

The first thing I learned from this activity was the names of different types of cancer. The type of cancer that was on my card was melanoma, a type I was familiar with, but some members of my group had cancers that I had never heard of before; glioma, which is cancer of the brain or spine, for instance. Another thing I learned through group discussion and comparison was that the number of genes that contribute to cancer varies among the types of cancers. The number ranged from two to six, and that was only for the five people in my group; throughout the class, the variation could have been even greater. Lastly, I learned that fewer genes that deal with genome maintenance, when affected, tend to cause cancer, compared to genes that deal with cell survival or fate.

While I was interested in all that I learned from this activity, some things stood out over others, especially what I found while researching melanoma. A recent article described an algorithm that  requires only a photo of your skin to determine whether you should have a biopsy or not, which was developed by a team from Stanford. I was surprised to discover that this kind of advanced technology exists, and interested to see how it could be used in the future to help people. I was also interested to learn, through a classmate's research, that men are actually more susceptible to skin cancer because of one gene located on chromosome X. At first I was confused; I know that women have two X chromosomes, and men have one X and one Y, so I thought that women would be more susceptible. However, I learned that women's second copy of the gene is almost like insurance, providing a backup if the first is mutated.

Naturally, questions occurred to me along with this newfound knowledge. Although my group and I spotted certain patterns among the cancer types and cancer patients, I wonder if established patterns exist. Have scientists found evidence through data analysis that there is a pattern to how types and locations of genes play into the development of cancer?



Monday, March 13, 2017

Weekly Reflection for the Week of March 6th-10th

How did you do on your work?
Last week, the major assignment we worked on was the write-up for the PCR lab. I felt pretty good about this because of the online simulation we did beforehand. However, the Allele Server Exercise in which we compared genotype frequencies among groups complicated the lab a bit, and I’m not sure that I discussed it properly. The other assignments we did were vodcasts; these I understood very well because I remembered learning the material sophomore year.


What do you think you understand well?
I understand mitosis well because it was review for me. The “click and learn” activity we did was especially helpful in helping me recall that material, as well as learn about it in greater detail.

Where do you think you can improve?
While the “click and learn” was helpful, it also introduced new and potentiality confusing topics such as tumor suppressor genes and proto-oncogenes. I understand generally how mutations in these affect organisms, but I could improve on the specifics. For instance, how mutations affect the proteins/receptors that are involved in certain processes.

What strategies will you use to improve?
To improve, as always, I could ask more questions. Although I do a good job of discussing the material with peers, asking Mrs. Cole would help me with the more difficult topics, on which none of my classmates are too solid either.

How does the work we are doing fit into the context/narrative of the course?

This course is all about relating biology information to relevant, real-world situations. The work we did about mitosis and mutations in certain genes during it relate to the very real problem of cancer and how doctors treat it. I think talking about both sides of this topic helped me understand it better, because it links it to something I’m already familiar with.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Weekly Reflection for Week of February 27th- March 3rd

How did you do on your work?

Considering that this was the first week back to school following vacation, I did surprisingly well on the work! I guess getting to do the PCR lab was exciting enough to get me back into a working mode real quick. I did not get any results from this lab, (no bands appeared for my well on the agarose) but I still think it was successful because it helped me understand the process of PCR. In addition to running the experiment, we began the process of comparing our class results to those of other groups online. While the Chi-square tests we are doing bring me back to my Stats days last year, the other aspects of the online exercises were a little confusing to me. We closed out the week with a quiz on biotechnology, which was a good review of material I hadn't studied since before vacation.

What do you think you understand well?

I understand PCR pretty well, since we actually got to do it. I understand electrophoresis too (same reason). After taking the quiz, I think I also understand the other bio-technologies well, although I could benefit from using them. We probably don't have the resources for most of them, though.

Where do you think you can improve?

I think I could improve in my understanding of the significance of the Chi-square tests. I remember (for the most part) what the test is and why it is used from Statistics. However, I am not as clear on how the results in this particular case are significant and what we can glean from them.

What strategies will you use to improve?

I have only just begun the lab write-up on these tests, so it makes sense that I am still a little confused. I think I will gain a better understanding simply by continuing my work. As for other topics covered this week, I could solidify my understanding by studying more, asking questions, and looking to supplemental sources.

How does the work we are doing fit into the context/narrative of the course?

The work we did this week fits into the context of this course. In weeks past, we were introduced to certain techniques. Then, we learned about them in more detail. Next, we experienced them first hand, and finally, we were quizzed on them. This is how the course is taught, and I think it is very effective. As for the content of the course, the work fit into it because we learned about DNA, the information molecule of cells; it is only natural that after, we learn about how scientists can work with DNA and use its amazing abilities to their advantage.