Bringing Developmental Biology to South Texas
John Wallingford has taught developmental biology to students at two of the country's most highly prestigious and competitive institutions, and now he and Rudi Bohm bring this world-class experience to underserved university students in South Texas.
Students in the Baffin Bay Developmental Biology short course in Kingsville, TX in August 2022. Photo credit: Miranda Smith.
Over the last two decades, John Wallingford has taught developmental biology short courses to students at two of the country's most highly prestigious and competitive biological research institutions: the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. But not all biology students have access to these transformative experiences.
Wallingford, a professor of molecular biosciences at The University of Texas at Austin, and his colleague, Rudi Bohm, an associate professor at Texas A&M University and UT Austin alum, brought this kind of world-class experience to underserved university students in South Texas. The four-day course in early August, called Baffin Bay Developmental Biology, was featured in the Kingsville Record newspaper and on KIII-TV in Corpus Christi.
In addition to lectures, the 14 students—senior undergraduates and masters students from Texas A&M Kingsville—got real hands-on experience: They observed frog embryo development over time and made time-lapse movies. They used immunostaining to learn about differential gene expression in embryos. And they performed what Wallingford calls "cut and paste" embryology, repeating an experiment from the early 20th century that led to a Nobel Prize.
The course was also a valuable networking opportunity for students interested in pursuing careers in the biological sciences. In addition to Wallingford and Bohm, students spent time working with and learning from UT Austin postdoctoral researcher Shinuo Weng and Ph.D. students Neftalí Vazquez and Cristina Raya.
"The real strength of the course is actually not the cool science and cool microscopes, but the opportunity for students to work shoulder to shoulder with leaders in the field," said Wallingford.