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We report a thematic sequence of directed inquiry-based labs taking students from bacterial mutagenesisand phenotypic identification of their own self-created mutant, through identification ofmutated genes by biochemical testing, to verification of mutant alleles by complementation, and finally tomutant allele characterization by DNA sequence analysis. The lab utilizes UV mutagenesis with wild-typeEscherichia coli and a UV-sensitive isogenic derivative optimized for undergraduate use. The labs takeadvantage of the simplicity of E. coli in a realistic genetic investigation using safe UV irradiation methodsfor creation and characterization of novel mutants. Assessment data collected over three offerings of thecourse suggest that the labs, which combine original investigation in a scientifically realistic intellectualenvironment with learned techniques and concepts, were instrumental in improving students’ learning ina number of areas. These include the development of critical thinking skills and understanding ofconcepts and methods. Student responses also suggest the labs were helpful in improving students’understanding of the scientific process as a rational series of experimental investigations and awareness ofthe interdisciplinary nature of scientific inquiry.

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Genetics September 2010 186:33-39; doi:10.1534/genetics.110.120147

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