Breakthroughs: An Exploration of Laboratory Organisms in Biomedical Research

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Two Sections Available to Choose From:

Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
June 28, 2021 - July 14, 20216/28 - 7/142 WeeksOnlineWaitlistedOnlineLindsay Mehrmanesh
July 12, 2021 - July 28, 20217/12 - 7/282 WeeksOnlineWaitlistedOnlineLindsay Mehrmanesh

Course Description

Groundbreaking advancements in our understanding of human health and disease could not be accomplished without the help of some interesting creatures. In this course we will explore the usage and scientific contributions of several model organisms. Students will have the opportunity to learn about both common and lesser-known model organisms and understand how they have allowed incredible discoveries in biomedical research. 

Medicine does not begin with clinical trials. In fact, many years of research must be conducted using other systems before being applied to humans. Did you know that tremendous strides have been made in stem cell research by using a small, pond-dwelling worm? The same yeast that makes bread dough rise is also used to uncover mechanisms in cancer. In the decades before pregnancy tests could be purchased, frogs were used as a reliable method of finding out if a woman was expecting! Today, those same frogs are used as a model for embryonic development, toxicology, neurobiology and cell biology. You will get an overview of these and other lab organisms and learn how they are used in biomedical research.

Scientists carefully choose model organisms to use based on several factors. Some of these have to do with what biological questions they want to ask, while some are quite logistical. The round-worm C. elegans can easily be stored in a freezer for future research, but you definitely wouldn’t want to try that with a mouse! However, mouse embryo cryopreservation, while much more expensive, is possible. Working with different organisms requires management and ethical considerations. We will learn about the requirements of responsible animal usage and the regulations in place to keep researchers safe and productive while ensuring proper animal care.

You will learn how scientists are currently working with these organisms by reading classical and recently-published studies. We will have virtual visits with labs, delve into the research that is being performed there and talk to a variety of lab members to get a sense of what research entails from the people actually doing it. Topics covered will include stem cell biology, cancer, aging, gene-editing and several human diseases.

Upon completion of this course students will understand why and how certain model organisms are used in laboratory biomedical research. Over the course of our 2-week class, you will likely develop opinions about which organisms you would want to work with -and which ones you might not! The course will culminate with a final project on the organism of your choice and an opportunity for you to research interesting work being done with that organism.

Prerequisites: Completion of a high school biology course is required.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEBI0977

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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