THE OVERVIEW:  This Summer, 2017 Professor Bill Ward begins his 5th year of teaching “Experiments with GFP: The Art and the Science” to gifted and talented youngsters from area middle schools and high schools.   This hands-on biochemistry lab course, held in Lipman Hall on the Cook Campus of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ. The course offered twice in 2017: June 26 to July 17 and July 17 to August 4, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.  A 3-credit Summer Session course   “Experiments with GFP --- has grown to be the largest and most successful course of its kind at Rutgers. The subject of a Nobel Prize in 2008, green-fluorescent protein has received international fame.  Professor Ward has the longest continuous research program on GFP of anyone else in the world.  While primarily a biochemistry lab course, this may be one of very few courses to integrate the arts with the sciences.

THE ART:  Conducting biochemical experiments with the amazingly brilliant green-fluorescent protein is an aesthetic experience all by itself.  But, viewing live comb jellies (ctenophores) glowing in the dark, and then later, seeing their 8 rows of fused cilia diffracting daylight into a rainbow of colors is an incredible spectacle.   Artistic aspects of the course are not confined to viewing bioluminescence.  Each student, individually, will be given an opportunity to design, on paper, an aquarium system suitable for maintaining comb jellies in an artificial sea water environment. Later, they will create beautiful wall hangings directly from dried comb jellies that were collected off the coast of NJ.  On the last day of the course, the kids, and sometimes the instructors, participate in an optional talent show.  The most memorable show of talent was performed, in the inaugural course, by a 10-year-old boy who did 15 minutes of non-stop impromptu stand-up comedy.  Move over Jerry Seinfeld!

picture of GFPTHE SCIENCE:  In a fully equipped university teaching lab, we begin the lab exercises by extracting recombinant GFP from genetically transformed, non- pathogenic bacteria (E. coli).  Safety is stressed in the lab, as each student wears goggles, lab coats, and gloves.  Lab exercises with GFP include: high speed centrifuging to remove particles from the extract, ammonium sulfate precipitation to collect the protein fraction, three-phase partitioning (a seldom used, but spectacular method for purifying proteins), hydrophobic interaction column chromatography, and then a final “polishing” step by gel filtration.  Throughout the process we monitor GFP purity by UV-Vis spectrophotometry and fluorometry.  Students will experiment with ion exchange separations on membrane adsorbers, they will test pH sensitivity of GFP, and they will estimate the isoelectric point of the protein.  Final purity will be judged by high performance size- exclusion liquid chromatography.  Every method used in the lab will be carefully explained by the instructors in their small clusters.  Questions are always welcomed.  After registration is complete, a 40-page course, called “Introduction to Chemistry and Biochemistry,” written by Professor Ward will be emailed to each student who requests the course. Much of what we cover in “Experiments with GFP” is included in this introductory course.

  The scientific component of the course is not limited to work with GFP.  On July 17, there is an all-day bus trip (8 am to 5:30 pm) to South Jersey (Stone Harbor), where naturalists will take everyone on a flat-bottom boat cruise (on the Skimmer) through the salt marsh and then guide the group on a walk through sand dunes leading to the ocean beach.  We will pull a large plankton net through the bay, hoping to collect some jellyfish or other marine creatures.  Back in the lab, students will do simple colorimetric tests for peroxidase extracted from soybean hulls and from root vegetables like sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and celery roots.  The colored product of this reaction (a teal blue solution) is then used to test for BPA (bis-phenol-A) in ordinary store receipts.  Students will be given prototype BPA test kits to take home to their parents and teachers to show them how to detect BPA in store receipts, on their own. Students keep notebooks, write a final lab report, take one quiz a week, and take a final exam the day before our talent show.  If departmental toxicologist, Professor Cooper, is available, we will ask him to talk about his research on the development of fish embryos exposed to BPA.

THE REGISTRATION:  Eligibility for the course requires the submission of an essay from a list of four topics.  This requirement has been changed since 2016.  Only one essay is required, but a bit more emphasis is being placed on the correctness of the essayEssay topics are linked here.  This essay is to be forwarded to Dr. Ward at (with name, your age on the cover page and the essay page).  As soon as the essay is approved you are ready to begin registration.