Introductory lesson on BLAST

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Introduction to BLAST using Human Leptin

Lesson keywords: Bioinformatics, BLAST, Database, Protein sequence
Instructional time required: 1 class period or less
Students work as individuals or teams: Either individual or team work is possible
Number of students in a class: 10-25 students (assuming no TAs and one computer for each student)
Link to lesson: Introduction to BLAST Using Human Leptin


This lesson aims to introduce students to the use of the Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST) to identify related sequences and compare similarity between them. This exercise uses the example of the human leptin gene. It begins with introducing students to the use of NCBI databases to explore diseases and associated genes including the recovery of a desired sequence that is then used to demonstrate the use of BLAST to find related sequences. Formative assessments are imbedded within the lesson to lead the student to consider their search results. A summative assessment is used to help the students reflect on the uses of databases and BLAST to explore functional relationships of genes and genomes. Intended to be used as a stand-alone module to teach fundamental analysis skills with BLAST. Could be used as an in-classroom lesson or as online curriculum to prepare students for individual BLAST searches performed with students in class. Results for the Leptin example BLAST search have been cached to allow for rapid recovery of results when implementing with larger enrollment courses.