The use of flippase for mitotic recombination is a standard technique, used by Drosophila geneticists to study the impact of mutations. The real achievement of the class, Banerjee said, was using the method to make homozygous mutations in the eye of all the lethal mutations available and creating a database describing the phenotypes or expressions of the mutations. The venture also created stocks that other researchers can use to determine the function of these genes in other tissues.
"None of us knew what was going to happen," said Joy Wu, a senior now applying to graduate programs in neuroscience. "It put us all on the same playing field." Added third-year student Albert Cespedes, "This course offered me a chance to do real research, an opportunity I never expected to have as an undergraduate."
Wu and Cespedes said the course has changed their career plans. "It's pretty much shaped my future by reinforcing my interest in genetics and development," said Wu. Cespedes, who plans to go to medical school, now is considering doing research too. "It never even dawned on me that research was an option until I took this course," he said.
Banerjee said the course embodies what happens to practicing scientists as they work, making connections between ideas and results. "It's totally amazing how little of that is imparted in some undergraduate classrooms," he observed.