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30 August 2007
JSU Biology Professors
Attend Real-Time PCR Workshop

Top left: Dr. Benjie Blair Top Right: Dr. LaJoyce Debro Botttom Left: Dr. Chris Murdock Bottom Right: Dr. Mark Meade

Drs. Benjie Blair, LaJoyce Debro, Mark Meade and Chris Murdock recently returned from Sunnyvale, California where they attended a Cepheid Inc. sponsored workshop in real-time PCR techniques. The training was included as part of an educational technology grant awarded to Dr. Murdock and his fellow biology colleagues this summer.

The grant awarded to the JSU Department of Biology also included the acquisition of a SmartCycler II real-time PCR system for the department itself. PCR is a technique that allows rapid amplification and detection of specific genes (DNA) in an organism. Real-time PCR is important in the clinical setting to diagnose and detect diseases.

Dr. Blair points out, “Many hospitals are currently transitioning from traditional culture methods of identifying bacteria, which can take days, to more contemporary molecular methods, such as real-time PCR, that can provide results in less than an hour.”

The Cepheid real-time PCR instrument uses fluorescent dyes to detect extremely low quantities (i.e., only a few copies) of a specific gene. This methodology allows for the detection and identification of specific genes from many sources, including bacteria, viruses, or humans.

The Jacksonville State University department of biology is one of only a few programs in the region that have such technological capabilities. As such, the JSU program provides student opportunities to gain experiences with many of the equipment and protocols commonly used in the biotechnology workforce. These experiences are also critical to students applying to post-graduate programs in research or health related fields (i.e., medical school).

JSU emphasizes hands-on research experiences for its biology students and many will benefit from experiences with this cutting edge technology. Undergraduate and graduate students will better understand how to rapidly produce data and to interpret the results.

“It is important for students to take advantage of these opportunities while they are undergraduates”, states Dr Murdock. “These students can then present their research at professional meetings or publish in journals, both which help to build impressive résumés.”

To help in the dissemination of expanding molecular technologies, the faculty participants are planning a two-day workshop, similar to the one attended at Cepheid, for interested students at JSU and neighboring institutions. The biology department at JSU is rapidly building a reputation for training students in molecular and biotechnology techniques.

According to Dr. Meade, “The support the University administration is providing to our department, and the science programs at JSU, in general, ensures students at JSU and in our region will continue to have opportunities of this type.”

Dr. Debro agrees and states further, “The biotechnology field is constantly changing and we have to change with it. Both faculty and students alike must continue to expand their education to keep up with advancing techniques that emerge each year.”

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