Researchers gather at Smith College for science 'boot camps'

NORTHAMPTON -- The techniques of molecular biology -- including DNA sequencing, cloning strategies and genomic screening -- have made possible many of the recent advances in the treatment of AIDS, cancer, malaria and other intractable diseases. Molecular biology also holds great potential for eradicating plant diseases and developing drought-resistant crops.

Because of the field's rapidly expanding usefulness in uncovering an array of scientific and medical solutions, established scientists and other professionals are returning to the classroom to add to their repertoires the experimental methods of molecular biology.

Enter the New England Biolabs Molecular Biology and PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) Summer Workshops, offered in three sessions each summer at Smith College. The only program of its kind in the world, these intensive scientific "boot camps" for science professionals are widely considered indispensable for gaining facility with the tools and approaches of molecular biology.

The sessions aren't known as "boot camps" for nothing. After two weeks of 14-hour days (weekends included), participants come away with the equivalent of two university semesters' worth of broad laboratory and classroom instruction in the field.

The founding director of the program is Steven A. Williams, Gates Professor of Biology at Smith. Now in its 18th year, the program has trained more than 2,000 scientists from every state and more than 50 other countries.

Intended for beginners in molecular biology, the program now numbers among its alumni physicians; researchers from universities, colleges and institutes; and engineers from a variety of specialties. Professionals employed in a wide spectrum of other fields -- such as law, pharmacology, plant biology, genetics and physiology -- have participated as well.

"It's really remarkable the range of people we get," Williams remarks. "As far as the availability of comprehensive, general molecular biology p

Contact: Laurie Fenlason
Smith College

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