Travel Awardee, Polymenis 2013

Michael Polymenis, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas 
Award year: 2013
In the lab of Michael Polymenis, research centers on understanding what exactly determines when cells begin a new round of cell division. “Knowing which (and how) cellular pathways affect the machinery of cell division will allow modulations of cell proliferation because such processes dictate how fast cells multiply,” says Polymenis. He and colleagues uses baker's yeast as a model organism as it has several properties that are useful for the lab’s research objectives. “Yeast is a genetically tractable eukaryote,” he says. “It has a machinery of cell division that is very similar to that of human cells. Furthermore, in yeast, the initiation of cell division is coupled to the formation of a bud. Hence, one can monitor the timing of initiation of division by phase microscopy.” These features enable relatively simple and inexpensive experimental strategies to decipher the genetic networks that control cell division. 
Recently, with work performed mostly by a team of undergraduate students, the lab used comprehensive yeast deletion libraries to identify genes required for normal cell cycle progression (for works, follow links to articles 1 and 2). Polymenis says the work has significantly expanded and reshaped the landscape of factors required for the timely initiation of division. There a several opportunities for undergraduates to take part in these procedures. Students in the Polymenis lab perform genetic crosses of single mutants, selection steps to identify double mutant progeny, PCR-based genotype confirmation, scoring for phenotypes (growth rate, budding, and cell size, etc.), and computation of genetic interactions and graphical representation/clustering of the obtained data. “We expect that through this work students will be exposed to fundamental aspects of genetic analyses, from genotype to phenotypic manifestations,” says Polymenis. “The project is both divisible and scalable. Different portions of the project (sets of mutants, and/or steps in the analysis) can be performed in parallel at different sites. Students deposit the data in real time on wiki-based platforms. This is important because it allows accessibility to, and critical evaluation by all members of the various teams. ” For Polymenis, these aspects “greatly facilitate collaborations, without the need for close geographic proximity.”

ASM-LINK Welcomes Your Input
Looking for advice on ways to enhance undergraduate learning or just hoping to start a conversation about innovative ways to involve underrepresented minorities in research? The ASM-NSF Leaders Inspiring Networks and Knowledge (LINK) programs welcome your interest. Contact the individual awardee for details. 
LINK is sponsored by ASM with support from National Science Foundation grant no. 1241970.