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Our Scientists

Jasper Rine, PhD
HHMI Professor / Appointed – 2006

Scientific Discipline

Genetics

Host Institution

University of California

Current Position

Dr. Rine is also Professor of Genetics, Genomics, and Development at the University of California, Berkeley.

Current Research

Overhauling the Introductory Biology Laboratory Curriculum

Jasper Rine's research focuses on gene regulation and cell biology in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. His HHMI project involved the development of an introductory biology curriculum that makes the lab experience more like a true research experience, uses mathematical tools for analysis of large data sets, and integrates the principles of biology with those of chemistry and the physical sciences.

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Biography

You won't find it on his CV, but in addition to his achievements in genetics and genomics research and his teaching awards, Jasper Rine inspired an eponymous, now-defunct punk-rock band that had a mercifully short run in the late 1990s.

"He…

You won't find it on his CV, but in addition to his achievements in genetics and genomics research and his teaching awards, Jasper Rine inspired an eponymous, now-defunct punk-rock band that had a mercifully short run in the late 1990s.

"He studied mice and men and the canine beast," sang Eric Lai, who founded "The Jasper Rine" band when he was a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego, "but his favorite thing is the noble yeast." All true: Rine has published a map of the dog genome, and his University of California at Berkeley lab focuses on gene regulation and cell biology in Saccharomyces cerevisiae—baker's yeast.

Lai, now head of a developmental biology lab at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, said the band originally had a different name. "Then Rine came down to speak at UCSD, and we were entranced by his talk, so we decided to rename ourselves 'The Jasper Rine.'"

"Entrancing" is not too strong a word for Rine's teaching style, according to colleagues and students. When he received a Distinguished Teaching Award from UC Berkeley in 1997, one student said, "He was concise, organized, entertaining, and perhaps most important, friendly." Others call his research seminars "Rinestone" lectures because they're "gems."

Humor aside, Rine is intensely serious about his plans as an HHMI professor to overhaul introductory biology laboratory instruction. In true scientific manner, he will set up a laboratory within which to develop and test new laboratory curricula. It will be staffed, he said, with three postdoctoral students who will help him create new lab modules. These will be field-tested over the summer by a dozen of his best undergraduates. The modules that pass muster will be used in Rine's classes and—he hopes—by others at Berkeley. "The curriculum laboratory "will provide a mechanism for sustaining renewal of the curriculum," he explained.

Traditional science teaching relies too much on memorization, Rine said, "which is looking backward" rather than "asking a question, obtaining data, and interpreting it." In one lab module, Rine plans to have students scrape cells from inside their cheeks to obtain DNA from their mitochondria, which contains a segment that has been used to track the evolution and distribution of humans and other species. This mitochondrial segment will be sequenced by commercial vendors.

With their raw DNA sequence handed to them in a spreadsheet form, the undergraduates will use modern computational methods to create genealogical trees of their diverse backgrounds. This lab experience should help enliven discussions about bioethics issues, Rine noted. "They can contribute to the debate about how personal genetic information can be protected, but also used." Rine is so excited about the HHMI professorship that his only complaint is "that it should come with an extra twelve hours in the day!"

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Education

  • PhD, University of Oregon

Awards

  • Distinguished Teaching Award 1997, UC Berkeley

Memberships

  • American Society of Microbiology
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • National Academy of Sciences
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