Welcome to UCMP’s Molecular Labs

by Sharon Moshel-Lynch — (page 1 of 3)
To obtain a more complete understanding of the evolution of life, we must study more than just fossils. Increasingly we are finding answers about evolutionary relationships through the study of comparative molecular evidence. While advances in DNA sequencing have enabled researchers to perform molecular research rather easily, the sheer magnitude of the job before us is still quite daunting. As part of its commitment to advancing the study of the past, UCMP has established state-of-the-art molecular facilities to provide our researchers with the means to carry out molecular research. Housed within the museum are several molecular laboratories suited for a variety of specialties within the discipline commonly known as Molecular Biology. These laboratories are open to students, staff, and faculty of the museum, as well as visiting scholars.

The DNA Extraction Lab
Most UCMP molecular projects begin with the extraction of DNA from organisms. The museum is equipped with a DNA Extraction Lab where both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA are regularly extracted from fresh or preserved specimens. Various equipment is used to carry out the process of DNA extraction, including homogenizers to break down tissues, as well as water baths, shakers, incubators, and centrifuges that are used to isolate DNA from the samples. This isolated laboratory is located as far away as possible from our sequencing lab and also has an ultraviolet light (UV) hood which is used to ensure the purity of samples (any molecular biologist will tell you that their biggest fear is cross-contamination with DNA from other organisms). Emina Begovic, a graduate student in David Lindberg’s laboratory, has successfully extracted DNA from one hundred-year-old limpets from the collections. This sample has helped Emina to understand the effects of ecology on speciation within limpets, and demonstrates the importance of museum collections coupled with the application of new techniques for the advancement of research.

  Emina programs the thermocycler
Grad student Emina Begovic programs a thermocycler to run a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), in order to produce amplified (numerous copies of) DNA. (photo by David Smith)

Front page Next