New Courses Expand LMP Curriculum

Friday, August 26, 2016
Medical Sciences Building
Two new graduate courses will run in the Medical Sciences Building this fall, LMP1535H and LMP2222H.

The Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology will offer two new graduate courses this fall. One course covers proteomics and mass spectrometry and their clinical applications, while the other looks at neurodegenerative disease and gives students the opportunity to work on a publishable review article rather than write exams.

Professors Andrei Drabovich and Vathany Kulasingam coordinate the proteomics course (LMP1535H). "We really thought the time had come for this course," said Drabovich. "With the evolution of mass spectrometry in the last few years, we can now identify and quantify hundreds or even thousands of proteins and small molecules at a time. That's opened up a whole new world of discovery that is increasingly essential in the study of many diseases."

The course will introduce the fundamentals of mass spectrometry then move into translational research and clinical applications, with a focus on disease pathology and how proteomics intersects with bioinformatics and other technologies.

Samih Alqawlaq is a doctoral student who has enrolled in the course. He studies how cells called astrocytes malfunction in glaucoma, in the lab of Professor Jeremy Sivac. Alqawlaq said the course will give him the background to better understand proteomic data. "I want to know how the data was derived, what limitations I'm dealing with in a particular study design. It should help put the data in context, so I can draw the right amount of certainty from a given technique."

The other course new this year (LMP2222H) covers mechanisms, models and methods in the study of neurodegenerative disease. The course coordinators were inspired in part by the success of LMP410H1, a popular undergraduate course on neurodegenerative disease.

"There are other graduate courses with one or two lectures on neurodegenerative disease, but not a whole course," said Joel Watts, one of the two coordinators for LMP2222H and a professor in the Department of Biochemistry. "We wanted to create a graduate-level course solely dedicated to what we think — and a lot of students seem to agree — is a really important area."

The course features an unusual evaluation structure. Students will break into two groups, one led by Watts and the other led by LMP Professor Gerold Schmitt-Ulms. Each group will assemble a journal review article on a topic relevant to the course. Students will research, write, present and critique a section of one of the review papers. "We hope students embrace the idea and work hard to produce a high-quality manuscript, then get rewarded with their names on published document," said Schmitt-Ulms.

Watts and Schmitt-Ulms said the idea for the evaluation structure came from talking to students and from their sense that in the exam-based courses they had taught, not all students were fully engaged. "We thought, why not make it real? Let the students write something with tangible benefit," said Schmitt-Ulms.

Both coordinators hope the course will help address a problem that they and their colleagues see frequently in students: inexperience writing a publishable manuscript. Many graduate students don't get the chance to be a key author on a paper until late in their program, and even then, more senior researchers often handle interaction with the publisher.

Watts said the course will take a step-by-step approach to good practices in manuscript preparation, from research and intellectual property to plagiarism. All students will participate in rounds of editing and revisions of their review article after the course officially ends.

LMP222H will run Wednesdays from 2:00 to 4:00 pm, and LMP1535H will run Wednesdays from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm. — Jim Oldfield