This site is supported by the Department of Defense in partnership with the NSF REU program. Hands-on research in Genomics and Computational Biology will bring 10 participants each summer to the University of Georgia (UGA) for ten weeks. Students are recruited nationally from underrepresented groups and will interact with an established interdisciplinary team working on identifying biological circuits for fundamental processes and validating these biological circuits by fitting them to genomics data. Since the discovery of DNA as the genetic material 60 years ago, biologists have been taking apart living systems on a finer and finer scale until they have been able to determine the complete genetic blueprint of many organisms. The challenge of the new millennium is "reassembling the pieces", i.e., moving from genomes to life. One approach to reassembling the pieces is to borrow a metaphor from computer science: the entire chemical reaction network describing what a cell does is a biological circuit. The theme for this genomics and computational biology program is "computing life", i.e., identifying biological circuits for fundamental processes like carbon metabolism and the biological clock and validating these biological circuits by fitting them to genomics data describing what the cell is doing.The program has operated for more than 6 years with more than 63 past participants. Students receive a stipend, housing and meal assistance, research supplies, and travel to and from lab. For more information, students should contact Dr. Jonathan Arnold at or visit

Project Report

The following project supported ~10 undergraduates per summer over 4 years in a research experience for undergraduates (REU). Each summer the program enabled ~10 participants recruited nationally to carry out research in systems biology for 10 weeks. In toto forty REU participants went through the program over 4 years. Because of this experience ~77% participants elected to go on in science. Over 66% of the participants were from underrepresented groups. REU participants contributed to fundamental discoveries about the biological clock as well as how telomerase functions in humans. The biological clock is thought to be a fundamental adaptation shared by many organisms that allows them to synchronize to the light/dark cycle of the planet, and telomerase is an enzyme that helps the ends of chromosomes replicate and function and is thought to have an impact on aging and cancer. Two of the past participants published reports on their work on the clock and telomerase in 2009 in Nature and Science. Both of these former REU participants began their doctoral dissertation projects on the biological clock and telomerase as REU participants. A video entitled "biological clocks" on some of the research carried out by this project was prepared for Science Nation at Some of the work on the clock was also featured in the Economist in February, 2007 for its biotechnological importance. Partner institutions in this project included the University of Georgia, Clark Atlanta University, and Fort Valley State University.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)
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Sally E. O'Connor
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University of Georgia
United States
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