BISC 413, Advanced Genetics Laboratory

Section 010

Tuesdays, 12:30-5:30 p.m.

019 McKinly Hall

Instructor: John McDonald
322 Wolf Hall (office)
Phone: 831-2007 (I rarely check messages, so e-mail is better)
Class web page:


This schedule has links to the instructions for each day's lab. I'll post the instructions shortly before each lab, so don't print them out ahead of time.

Date Day Activity
Sept. 1 Tuesday Collect bees, milkweed bugs, webworms, and earthworms
Sept. 8 Tuesday Allozyme project pre-proposal due
Sept. 13 Sunday Jack, Tyler, Eric, and a couple classmates: field trip to Delaware shore, leave Newark at 9 a.m.
Sept. 15 Tuesday Allozyme project proposal due
Sept. 17 Thursday Blair and four classmates: field trip to Delaware shore, leave Newark at 4 p.m.
Sept. 22 Tuesday  
Sept. 29 Tuesday  
Oct. 6 Tuesday  
Oct. 13 Sunday  
Oct. 13 Tuesday  
Oct. 20 Tuesday  
Oct. 27 Tuesday  
Nov. 3 Tuesday  
Nov. 10 Tuesday  
Nov. 17 Tuesday  
Nov. 24 Tuesday Thanksgiving break--no class
Dec. 1 Tuesday Worm paper due
Dec. 8 Tuesday Allozyme paper due;
Presentations: meet in 306 Wolf

Overall plan

Each of you will complete two semester-long projects. One will involve surveying allozyme variation in natural populations of an invertebrate or plant. I will assign you one species that is easy to collect and easy to identify. With the assistance of your classmates, you will collect samples from at least four locations and look for variation in allele frequency. You'll spent most of the lab time in September collecting your organisms, then in October and early November you'll run gels to observe genetic variation.

The second project will be a mass selection experiment on a quantitative trait in the microworm, Panagrellus redivivus. Working as a team of 4, you will design an experiment to measure a quantitative trait and select for an extreme value of this trait over multiple generations. Each of you will then perform this experiment individually, so the team has 4 replicates of the same experiment. You'll do this for about an hour a week, from mid-September to Dec. 1.

There is also a short, fun project on cat coat genetics. I'll make you go collecting your organisms in light rain, but if the weather's really bad on a day in September that we'd planned to go collecting, you will stay inside and do the cat lab. If that doesn't happen, you'll do the cat lab while your gels are running in October.

If things go really smoothly with the allozyme project and you are done running allozyme gels by early November, I've got some ideas for a Very Special Project to do in the last few classes. I'll let you know more about this after I try some things out and see if they work.

Office hours

There are no fixed office hours. You can make an appointment by talking to me before or after class, or by e-mailing me.

Lab manual

We will not use a printed lab manual this fall. The individual labs for the first few weeks will be linked from this web page. The topics for each lab may change at the last minute, so don't print out the labs ahead of time. Later in the semester, the instructions for each lab will just be "Continue working on your alloyzme and worm projects," so there may not be written instructions for each lab.


You will not be penalized for absences, but you must make up the work you miss. If you know in advance that you will miss a lab, please talk to me so we may make arrangements for you to do the work at another time. If you have an unplanned absence, please e-mail me as soon as you can so we may make arrangements.


Your grade will be based on the following:

The grades will not be curved. There are no extra credit projects. The points from the assignments will be combined and converted to letter grades as follows:

A 93-100; A- 90-92.9; B+ 87-89.9; B 83-86.9; B- 80-82.9; C+ 77-79.9; C 73-76.9; C- 70-72.9; D+ 67-69.9; D 63-66.9; D- 60-62.9; F 0-59.9.

Students who are less than 3 points below the minimum grade needed for their program (such as an undergraduate biology major with 67 to 69.9 points) will be given the opportunity to take an incomplete grade and complete an extra credit project. This project will be a lot of work, such as writing a 15-page term paper on a topic of my choice. Upon satisfactory completion of the project, you'll get the minimum grade needed for your program (such as C- for undergraduate biology majors). There will be no other extra credit.

Return to John McDonald's home page

This page was last revised November 17, 2015. Its URL is