This proposal is for support of a short course on the topic of gene regulatory networks in development offered at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. This course was first organized and directed by Dr. Eric Davidson (Caltech) and Dr. David McClay (Duke) in the fall of 2008 and has been offered each year since then. The course provides essential information of systems level approaches to understand development. It is designed for biologists who have an interest in moving their research in more quantitative directions, and for scientists from computational or physics backgrounds who wish to gain expertise in biological systems with a focus on development. The course provides an intense series of didactic lectures, discussions, chalk talks, laboratory demonstrations, and workshop interactions that advance the principles of transcription factor function, gene regulatory network organization, and approaches for addressing systems-level problems in development. It includes practical laboratory demonstrations, with hands on experience if desired, for transforming research results in development to systems level concepts and models. Students all participate in projects to construct gene networks from given literature sources and to capture these networks in the BioTapestry computational platform. Students have ranged from advanced graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to faculty in biology, computer science, physics, mathematics, and clinical sciences. Course faculty includes experts in genomics, molecular genetics, gene regulatory mechanisms, bioinformatics, computation and graphic design, and development.
Genomics has revolutionized concepts in biology over the past decade. As a consequence, research on normal and disease processes, birth defects, and maternal health has shifted from examination of single molecules to a systems level of inquiry. The gene regulatory networks course provides an intense series of lectures, discussions, clinics, and workshops designed to train traditional biologists and quantitative scientists to conduct research at this emerging molecular systems level.