Through a multi-university and interdisciplinary project we have involved undergraduate biology and computer science research students in the functional annotation of maize genes and the analysis of their microarray expression patterns. We have created a database to house the results of our functional annotation of >4400 genes identified as being differentially regulated in the maize shoot apical meristem (SAM). This database is located at http://sam.truman.edu and is now available for public use. The undergraduate students involved in constructing this unique SAM database received hands-on training in an intellectually challenging environment, which has prepared them for graduate and professional careers in biological sciences. We describe our experiences with this project as a model for effective research-based teaching of undergraduate biology and computer science students, as well as for a rich professional development experience for faculty at predominantly undergraduate institutions.
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