This post was contributed by guest blogger Clare O'Connor an Associate Professor at Boston College.
National reports stress the importance of providing authentic research experiences to undergraduate students (1, 2), but educators face significant challenges in designing suitable projects. In the O'Connor lab, we recognized that genome sequencing projects were generating huge amounts of data that could provide the basis for student projects in introductory labs. Genome projects use computational methods to identify genes by their similarities to genes in other species, but these studies generally leave questions about gene function wide open. What if two seemingly similar proteins have acquired divergent functions due to mutations accumulated over time? Undergraduates can help to answer this question!