Our university-based summer workshops:

For all of our workshops, introductory lecture material will cover normal cellular and molecular biology, including cell division, cell death, gene structure/regulation, protein structure/function, post-translational modifications and signal transduction. Once this foundation is established, the content of the four courses will diverge to cover the individual topics.

Real-world laboratory exercises teach modern molecular biology techniques. Specifically, we will investigate cell death using flow cytometry, explore an example of cytokine-induced gene regulation using real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and examine protein phosphorylation via chemiluminescent western blot.

To conclude the class, students will use their new knowledge and conduct independent computer research on a gene of their choosing. In general, students will investigate the normal function of their gene and the role of their gene in the development of disease, and then investigate and/or hypothesize how this knowledge could be used by researchers to rationally design the next generation of therapies. Instructors guide the students through this process, but in order to foster a spirit of discovery the students are purposefully given considerable leeway to choose their own direction and area of emphasis.

Throughout the workshops there will be a heavy emphasis on how to identify, analyze and solve problems using the scientific method, and learning how these skills translate into diverse professions within the field of biomedicine.

*Don’t be intimidated by the unfamiliar terminology…the purpose of these workshops is to learn exactly what all of these terms mean.

  1. In the Molecular Biology of Cancer workshop, lessons on normal molecular and cellular biology will provide a foundation for discussion of how these normal cellular processes are distorted or disrupted to trigger the development of cancer and how modern medicine is using this information to generate a new generation of drugs. Examples of topics that are covered include gene mutation/DNA repair, cell death (apoptosis), angiogenesis, metastasis, cancer stem cells, personalized medicine, and tumor immunology/immunotherapy.
  2. In the Molecular Neuroscience workshop, lessons on normal molecular biology will be used as a foundation to understand normal neurobiology on a molecular level, including topics such as action potentials, memory, emotion, learning and visual perception. There will be a heavy emphasis on neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, Multiple Sclerosis, psychopathy, depression and addiction, including strategies for pharmaceutical intervention and the future of drug development.
  3. The Molecular Immunology course will examine the function and regulation of the immune system at the molecular level. This includes lessons on the normal role of our immune system in combatting viral and bacterial infections such as Covid-19 and tuberculosis, immunodeficiency disorders such as HIV/AIDS, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus and type 1 diabetes that arise due to a hyperactive/poorly controlled immune system. Additional topics to be covered include the human microbiome, the role of inflammation in tumor development and type 2 diabetes, allergy, vaccine/antibiotic development, emerging viruses, and cancer immunotherapy.
  4. Molecular Biology of Aging workshop. Aging is the greatest risk factor for the development of disease, but only recently have we recognized that the pace of aging is governed by specific proteins, similar to every other biological process. Therefore aging – and by extension all aging-related disease – is vulnerable to pharmaceutical intervention.  The workshop begins with a brief overview of the molecular processes that govern embryonic development, and then transitions into lessons on the molecular biology of aging and aging-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Topics to be covered include embryogenesis, stem cell biology/epigenetics/cell differentiation, genes that regulate aging and lifespan, mitochondrial dysfunction, telomeres, and senescence.  There will be an emphasis on next-generation therapeutic strategies to slow the aging process and extend lifespan.

Commuter-only summer workshops, online workshops, modified fall/winter/spring workshops:

Medical Bioinformatics:  An introduction to cancer biology and molecular medicine, with an overview of the online tools available to access and analyze large, publicly-available basic and clinical research data sets.  Areas of emphasis include bioinformatics applied towards the discovery of the genetic basis of cancer and other diseases, the role of genetics in the response to currently-approved drugs (pharmacogenomics), and the development of next-generation therapeutics.  More specifically, topics to be covered include genome navigation and analysis, DNA/RNA-sequencing, gene expression profiling, function prediction of novel genes/proteins, protein-protein interaction networks, miRNA target prediction, analysis of sequence variation/mutations associated with disease, SNPs/GWAS, etc.  For students interested in doing research or working on a project for a science fair, this is a great way to get started.

Biomedical Research:  A workshop focused on introductory molecular biology laboratory techniques and biomedical research, held at our facility in Alameda, CA.  Topics covered include tissue culture (sterile technique and use of a laminar flow hood, cell counting/diluting, basic microscopy), isolation of DNA/RNA/protein, gene cloning and transfection/over-expression, SDS-PAGE gel electrophoresis/western blotting, flow cytometry (cell cycle analysis, measuring apoptosis), analysis of gene expression and mutation-detection using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and fluorescent microscopy.  All topics to be covered include a background on lab safety/ethics/record keeping, and there is a heavy emphasis on experimental design.

Covid-19: Biology, Immunity, Medicine:  An introduction to the molecular biology and medicine of SARS-CoV-2 and other emerging viruses. After an introduction to general virology and the origins of emerging viruses, the molecular biology that governs SARS-CoV-2 infectivity/virulence/transmission will be discussed, with an emphasis on the identification and exploitation of novel therapeutic targets. There will also be a focus on the molecular biology of the innate and adaptive immune response to Covid-19, including strategies to develop novel antiviral and immunomodulatory drugs. Specific topics to be addressed include ACE-2 biology, the humoral (antibody) and cytotoxic T cell responses to SARS-CoV-2, innate antiviral receptors, Type 1 interferon, inflammation/cytokine storms, vaccine strategy and development, genetic/physiologic risk factors that influence Covid-19 patient outcome, and pandemic epidemiology.

Medicinal Chemistry: An introduction to the process of modern drug discovery and drug design for the treatment of major human diseases. After an introduction to molecular biology, enzymology, and protein chemistry, strategies and methods for in silico protein structure-based drug design will be discussed, including drug-protein interaction and small molecule optimization. Other/specific topics to be discussed include drug resistance during the treatment of cancer, drug safety, biologics and next-generation therapeutic strategies.

Cancer Research:  A hybrid of the Molecular Biology of Cancer and Biomedical Research workshops.  Lessons on cancer biology are illustrated using modern molecular biology laboratory techniques.

Immunology Research:  A hybrid workshop that contains components of the Molecular Immunology, Covid-19: Biology/Immunity/Medicine, and Biomedical Research workshops.  Lessons on immunology are illustrated using modern molecular biology laboratory techniques.

Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Medicine:  (Designed for younger students, students looking for a brief introduction to molecular medicine, and budget-conscious students.)  The human body is composed of trillions of cells.  What is a cell, what are the components of cells, and how do these components interact to result in a living, walking, talking human being?  When disease develops, how exactly do these components fail, and how does modern medicine intervene to keep us healthy?  Specific topics to be discussed include DNA/RNA/protein, the molecular biology of transcription/translation/DNA replication, cell biology, gene mutation and the genetic basis of disease, and an introduction to drug development.