A primer in the March 2013 journal GENETICS pairs undergraduate teaching concepts in population genetics with current research on speciation and sequencing in crickets to foster critical thinking in the classroom.

Genetics and life sciences instructors, who teach undergraduate students about population and evolutionary genetics can use this new resource to teach about transcriptome divergence in two closely related species of field crickets to explain population genetics. (The transcriptome is the set of all RNA molecules produced in one cell or in a population of cells.)

The primer, “Population Genetics and a Study of Speciation Using Next-Generation Sequencing,” by Professor Patricia J. Wittkopp, explains how undergraduate instructors can, in their classrooms, use the article, “Patterns of Transcriptome Divergence in the Male Accessory Gland of Two Closely Related Species of Field Crickets” by Andrés et al., published in the February 2013 issue of GENETICS, a publication of the Genetics Society of America.

Primers are designed to bring cutting-edge scientific research into the classroom by making scientific papers accessible to undergraduate students and their instructors. A primer is intended to be used with the research article, which is published in the same or a recent issue of GENETICS. Primers include topic background, explanation of genetics concepts, suggestions for using the article in the classroom, and questions for classroom discussion. The articles give instructors the opportunity to enliven student interest in genetics by teaching genetics principles in the context of current research.

“The primer details background information on the Gryllus firmus and Gryllus pennsylvanicus cricket systems and the use of transcriptome sequence variation to study speciation. “Wittkopp provides cogent explanations of the sequencing technologies used as well as some of the results of the paper, but leaves most of the results for students to interpret on their own,” according to a press release from the GSA. “To give students the tools they need to interpret the data, Wittkopp provides a concise and accessible overview of the necessary genetics concepts on which the research of Andrés et al. is based. For instructors, Wittkopp provides guidance on how to use the primary literature in the classroom as well as questions for student discussion.

“By focusing on contemporary scientific literature, students engage in the learning process and are encouraged to make their own scientific discoveries,” said Elizabeth A. De Stasio, a professor at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisc., and editor of the primer section in the GSA’s journal, GENETICS.