In Dr. John M. Olson’s laboratory in the Life Sciences building, you can find an abandoned keyboard, a broom named Nimbus 2000 (as written in silver Sharpie) and a ball of multi-colored tape larger than your head. It’s larger than three heads combined, actually. This ball of tape, affectionately named “Gaffney,” represents the agony and stress of over 200 students who have taken Life Sciences 10H, one of the available prerequisite courses for the minor in Biomedical Research offered by UCLA’s Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology. LS10H strives to give first- and second-year students an early introduction to research through discovery-based education.
This week, I interviewed Dr. Olson, one of LS10H’s instructors, with whom I have been taking LS10H with this winter quarter. Currently, the project is focused on identifying genes of interest to fruit fly blood cell, lymph gland, and heart formation. Dr. Olson, a Drosophila researcher and current educator to many tens of students, has been involved since the beginning of the project, which is funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. We sat down with him for a quick Q&A on undergraduate research and the topic of academia in general. (more…)