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VTPP 651 - Epigenetics & Systems Physiology (Fall Semester)

Goulding Syllabus PhotoInstructor

Michael Golding PhD.
Assistant Professor
Department of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas 77843-4466
Email Dr. Golding

Course Description

Epigenetics is an emerging area of research with far-reaching implications into mammalian development and disease. In VTPP 651, students will evaluate and discuss current research examining the epigenetic mechanisms controlling systems physiology. This class will focus on the role of chromatin structure in the regulation of cellular homeostasis and organ function rather than concentrate on specific, isolated nuances of gene transcription. By doing so, students will gain an appreciation for the impact of epigenetic mechanisms upon mammalian development and normal homeostasis. Special emphasis will be paid to current studies applying epigenetic-based therapies to disease contexts and / or examining the disruptive role of teratogens in epigenetic programming.

By using a journal club format, this course will focus on developing skills in deciphering experimental design, critical paper reading, and technical fluency while at the same time, fostering the development of oral presentation skills. Students will be assigned two weekly papers taken from the most current primary literature. Students will be expected to analyze the data and research strategies described in the paper. For each manuscript discussed, one student will be expected to give an oral presentation detailing the research findings while another student will be assigned to lead the discussion of the paper. Each week, two papers will be discussed and marks will be assigned based on the quality of the oral presentations and active group participation.

Learning Outcomes and Course Objectives

The purpose of this course is to provide graduate level students with a journal club style seminar class focusing on the most current research in Epigenetics as it relates to systems physiology and disease. It is essential that graduate education teach students to think independently, access existing information, and acquire new knowledge on their own. This course will focus on "big picture" concepts and require students to focus their presentations on the scientific methods employed, rather than emphasizing an understanding of the specific biological systems being studied.

Learning Objectives

  • list the common elements found in all scientific manuscripts
  • discuss cases of scientific fraud and examine current procedures for reporting and preventing academic misconduct
  • for a given scientific paper, identify the hypothesis being addressed
  • break a scientific paper into it's component parts and evaluate the methodologies used to address the scientific hypothesis
  • use the online search tool PubMed as a resource to obtain background information on a given study
  • assimilate information from multiple sources into an oral presentation
  • effectively communicate to a large group of people
  • define epigenetics and explain the role of chromatin structure in controlling cellular development / homeostasis
  • list the major molecular techniques used to examine epigenetic phenomena
  • describe how changes in chromatin structure influence gene expression and organism phenotype
  • list the current therapeutic strategies that target epigenetic aspects of cellular function
  • define the term teratogen and explain the relevance of this term to development
  • define epigenetic programming and apply this concept to mammalian development

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, the graduate student will have:

  • integrated epigenetic mechanisms into their understanding of systems physiology
  • gained a firm understanding of how cellular differentiation contributes to organ development and function
  • developed an improved ability to critically evaluate scientific literature
  • improved ability to give oral presentations and lead group discussions
  • improved their technical fluency in the areas of epigenetics and cellular physiology
  • attained a greater understanding of the current techniques used in molecular biology
  • developed an appreciation for issues surrounding academic misconduct and scientific fraud
  • gained improved critical thinking skills and a greater capacity to evaluate scientific literature