Teaching

Information for Potential Students

We encourage both graduate students and undergraduates to apply for admission to the lab. Prospective graduate students should apply through the Duke Biology Department. Graduate students are encouraged to develop their own projects and are expected to show high levels of maturity and independence. The subject matter and relevant scientific disciplines from which projects are drawn are not constrained, though work within the Madagascar biological system is preferred.

Undergraduate students interested in gaining research experience through work study or volunteering should contact Dr. Peter Larsen. Undergraduates are usually assigned projects after consultation with lab personnel in order to explore scientific interests and goals. Once in the lab, students will work with a lab mentor, usually a postdoctoral associate or a graduate student. We place a high priority on assuring that undergraduate projects translate quickly into published work.

Duke Courses

Evolutionary Genomics: Who are we, where have we been, and where are we going?

Fall 2017: Biology 128FCS; Instructor: Anne Yoder (Wed 3:05 – 5:35 p.m)

Synopsis: We are now nearly a decade into the genomics revolution.  In a matter of only a few years, this technical revolution has generated data that allow us to gaze into our past, present, and future in ways that were beyond imagining when Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection was introduced to the world more than 150 years ago.  The unification of genomic data, bioinformatic analysis, and evolutionary theory has transformed our understanding of human history, our place within the Tree of Life, and the impact that our species is having on those with whom we share the planet.  Evolutionary genomics has also allowed powerful new insights into human vulnerabilities to disease pandemics, their origins, and their likely trajectories.  This course will draw from the primary literature to familiarize students with the multifaceted power of genomics, with a slant towards examining human history and disease from an evolutionary perspective.  When possible, published studies will be read along with reports from the popular press in order to provoke discussion of science communication strategies. Readings will be drawn from a wide variety of sources, from some published more than a century ago, up through the contemporary popular press.  As 50% of your grade, students will be responsible for choosing a relevant topic for scholarly exploration and evaluation.  The results of this project will be presented in both written (a critical essay) and verbal (a class presentation) formats.

Methods in Computational Biology & Genomics

Fall 2017: Biology 490S; Instructor: Ryan Campbell (Tues/Thurs: 3:05-4:20 -Perkins LINK 079 (Seminar 3))

Synopsis: This hands-on, methods course will introduce students to biological software, the statistics that underlie these tools, and how to combine both of these to test a wide range of biological questions. Topics covered will include basic command line programming, next generation sequencing methods & experimental genomics (RNAseq). The course will culminate with the implementation of these tools to complete a project re-analyzing publicly available data. Prerequisites include BIO201 or BIO202, STA101/higher or BIO204, and some coding background in any language.

Outreach

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Much of our research activities have a significant focus on collaboration with Malagasy students and colleagues. Research opportunities for American graduate students are enhanced by the formation of Malagasy/American partnerships wherein Malagasy students will serve as mentor/guides while in Madagascar, with the converse being true in the U.S. By working together in a mutual exploration of the natural and biogeographic history of specific groups of Malagasy vertebrates, the student pairs can efficiently progress from field, to lab, to analysis, to completion and write up of their respective theses.  Further opportunities exist for connecting with Malagasy colleagues and field opportunities in Madagascar via the Duke Lemur Center SAVA Conservation Initiative, described here.

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