Dr. Jones will develop a novel teaching tool for genetics called an “intelligent tutoring system,” or “cognitive tutor,” which is computer software that provides dynamic feedback to students as they work problems and helps them progress from novice to expert skill levels. Such a cognitive tutor will be instrumental in making interactive tutoring in genetics much more broadly accessible. As tutorial modules are developed, she will alter the way she teaches that section of the course, reducing the lecture component and introducing computer-based tutorial sessions. Ultimately, a self-paced genetics course may evolve. Initially, the targeted groups will be students in college-level genetics courses and medical students. The initial audience at Carnegie Mellon will be 70 to 90 juniors per year. A colleague at the University of Pittsburgh will beta-test the modules in teaching medical students (about 145 students per year). If the tutor proves successful, the yearly potential audience nationwide is the 100,000 college students who take genetics and 16,300 medical students (not all of whom take genetics).
In addition, Dr. Jones will develop a Summer Research Institute for rising sophomores at Carnegie Mellon University. Students will be taught experimental skills and then spend eight weeks in groups of four carrying out a research project under the guidance of a graduate student. The institute will pique students’ interest in research early in their college careers, provide an efficient way to teach them basic experimental skills, teach them to think in terms of hypotheses and experiments, and impart the skills they need to be productive members of a research team. Not only will this make their entry into a research lab more immediately productive, but it will also make faculty members more receptive to taking on younger students, because they will no longer represent the time sink associated with teaching skills to beginners. It will also be beneficial to the graduate mentors, who will receive instruction in teaching and mentoring undergraduates in the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence while they themselves are being mentored. The target group the first year is 12 sophomores and 3 graduate student mentors. After the first year, it should be known whether the numbers can be increased. Thus, a minimum of 48 sophomores and 12 graduate students will benefit.
Dr. Jones's research has focused on using genetics to learn about cellular function. Initially, she concentrated her efforts on the genetic control of the metabolism and physiology of yeast cells. Then, using protease mutants, her lab demonstrated that vacuolar proteases were not required for or involved in septation during cell division or in turnover of selected enzymes during catabolite inactivation. They were, however, required for sporulation-associated protein degradation. In additional studies, her lab showed that the PrA precursor is activated autocatalytically upon entering the acidic lumen of the yeast vacuole and that maturation of the PrB precursor requires four proteolytic cleavages: signal peptidase cleavage and an N-terminal autocatalytic cleavage, both in the endoplasmic reticulum; a PrA-catalyzed cleavage; and an autocatalytic or PrB-catalyzed cleavage in the C-terminal tail and in the vacuole. pep mutants led researchers in her lab to the yeast vacuole. They identified two syntaxins that are required in the endosomal pathway from the Golgi to the vacuole: Pep12p at the endosome and Pth1p/Vam3p at the vacuole. Pth1p is also required at the termini of the direct Golgi-to-vacuole and cytoplasm-to-vacuole pathways.
Dr. Jones’s lab is now actively studying four genes—PEP3, PEP5, VPS16, and VPS33/PEP14—the null mutations of which result in the absence of a vacuole. Her lab and others showed that their encoded polypeptides are required at the vacuole membrane. More recently, her lab demonstrated that Pep3p, Pep5p, and Vps16p are required at multiple steps in multiple pathways to the vacuole. They are required for anterograde and retrograde traffic between the Golgi and the late endosome; for docking/fusion of vesicles at the vacuole that derive from the endosomal, from the cytoplasm-to-vacuole, and from the direct Golgi-to-vacuole pathways; and for early and late steps in the endocytotic pathway. Her lab is in the process of purifying the enzyme complex(es) by tandem affinity purification with TAP-TAG and will use matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry to identify additional components of the complexes.
Last updated October 2002