Seminars and Workshops

BUGSS hosts an ever-changing array of seminars, Open Mic nights, open houses, and workshops. Our Evenbrite page has the most current listing of seminars, workshops, and courses.

You can also find these activities on the calendar below and use the calendar  links to sign up.


We also offer numerous courses where the public can engage directly with hands-on biotechnology activities. Courses involve short lectures interspersed with hands-on lab experiments.

Sequencing the Inner Harbor

Thanks to our iGEM student  and course participant Zoe Hsieh for her writeup of her experience in this course:

Image result for zoe hsieh iGEM

My experience at the “Sequencing the Inner Harbor” class was very enjoyable and interesting. This class focused on performing PCR and gel electrophoresis procedures. The reaction components of PCR included a buffer, forward/reverse primers, template DNA, water, DNA polymerase, and dNTPs. On a PCR plate, we placed the forward/reverse primers on the sides of the slots, while the DNA and water were placed in the middle. After we finished pipetting all the reaction components for each sample, we loaded the PCR plate into the PCR machine. After the PCR machine finished its cycles, we created a gel out of agarose, and loaded the PCR samples in the wells of the gel. We included a DNA ladder in the gel in order to help identify the sizes of the fragments of the samples. We put the gel in an electrophoresis chamber, which separated different sized DNA fragments from each other after an electric current is activated. After thirty minutes, we turned off the current and placed the gel under UV lights to see our results.

            Prior to this class, I had learned how to do PCR and gel electrophoresis while on the IGEM team here in BUGSS. I had spent a lot of the summer in the community lab and performed lab techniques such as isolating plasmid DNA, a restriction digest, ligation, transformation, PCR, and gel electrophoresis. I thought that using the nanodrop was very cool, since it could measure how much DNA there was and how pure it was, all from just one or two micrometers. I also found it pretty fun to set up and program the PCR machine. The class also focused on explaining how the data obtained from our lab work would be used, and also featured lectures about the diversity of different species of organisms in the ocean. I found it interesting that the number of organisms not sequenced yet increased as the water depth increased. I would really recommend this class, since it involves fun lab work, and also explains how the lab work contributes to better understanding organisms and their environments.

Is there life in our Inner Harbor? Of course, it’s teeming with living organisms! Not only the fish, crabs, and oysters that we think of immediately, but also microscopic life. In this course, we will be collaborating with researchers at the University of Maryland’s Institute for Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) to sequence the DNA of all plankton living in the Inner Harbor. Learn all about the field of metagenomics and how next-generation sequencing can be applied to environmental monitoring and preservation. Perform cutting-edge DNA library preparation in the lab! This is a great opportunity to learn about groundbreaking metagenomics technology (simultaneously sequencing the DNA of all organisms in a habitat).

This project will continue with a second class, Analyzing the Harbor, which will use bioinformatics to analyze and understand the data that we obtain in this class. Analyzing the Inner Harbor occurs on March 30th, April 6th, and April 13th. Signup for that class at:

This class takes place over three days (Sat Feb 9, 16, and 23rd).

Sat Feb 9, 16, and 23rd from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM

For more information: Sequencing the Harbor

Evolution in Action: Lord of the Flies

Are human beings still evolving? You bet they are! In this class we’ll learn all about natural selection. How does it work? Why is it important? How is it still occurring today? We’ll use one of scientists’ favorite model organisms, fruit flies, to explore how natural selection works, how it makes some organisms more likely to survive and reproduce, and how it leads to evolution. We will also discuss how humans are interfering in and influencing this process through the use (or abuse!) of artificial selection and gene drives to change the natural world. No lab experience necessary. Class will be appropriate for adults, and advanced high school students.

This class takes place over two days (Sat Jan 19th and Sat Feb 2nd). 

Sat January 19, 2019 and Sat Feb 2, 2019 from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM

For more information: Lord of the Flies

Glow Bugs!

It’s glow time! Bioluminescence is found throughout the natural world. Why do so many organisms glow? How do they do it? What benefits does it provide?

Join us for an examination of bioluminescence as we go into the lab to work with bioluminescent bacteria. We’ll experiment with environmental factors that influence the bacteria’s brightness and study how we can use these properties as research tools to study everything from cancer to neurobiology!

Class will be appropriate for ages 10+ ; kids and adults alike will enjoy this event!

Sat, January 12, 2019 from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM

For more information: Glow Bugs 

Past Courses

CRISPR Gene Editing

Did you miss our big 4-week course on CRISPR in August? No worries, we’re diving back into the world of gene editing with a 1-day seminar and lab. We’ll talk with a genetic counselor about the use of CRISPR gene editing technology in the treatment of disease-which diseases does it work best for? Which genetic disease communities are most excited about the prospects? Then we’ll move into the lab to learn how to use CRISPR to edit DNA sequences to our exact specifications. Class will be appropriate for adults, and advanced high school students.

December 1, 2018 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM

For more information: CRISPR Seminar

Influenza: Fact and Fiction

Influenza (the flu) causes misery every season. Why haven’t we conquered it yet? Why is it so hard to make a vaccine? How and why is the virus constantly changing? In this class, we’ll learn all about the flu and why it’s so hard to combat by focusing on the proteins of the flu virus and our immune response. We’ll learn how to detect flu proteins in the lab using the ELISA technique. Class will be appropriate for adults, and advanced high school students.                 

November 10, 2018 AND November 17, 2018 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM (this is a 2-week class, the sessions are not the same)

For more information: Influenza

Resilient DNA: To what extent can our genetics determine who we are?

Are your genes making you stressed? In this class participants will check themselves for a variant in the serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4) associated with stress resiliency to explore the  relationship between genes, environment, and personality traits. Class will be appropriate for adults, and advanced high school students.

October 27, 2018 AND November 3rd from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM (this is a 2-week class, the sessions are not the same)

For more information: Resilient DNA

Food Forensics

You may be curious about the fish you purchase at your grocery store or local market. Is it really what they say it is? Test it for yourself in our lab and learn the process of DNA isolation, PCR, gel electrophoresis, and DNA barcoding and sequencing! Class will be appropriate for adults, and advanced high school students.  

September 22 and 29, 2018 from 10 am -2 pm

For more information: Food Forensics

Build-a-Gene: A course covering cutting-edge topics in gene manipulation.

No previous lab experience necessary-while the concepts are extraordinary, this course is appropriate for those with no lab experience. Learn how to build genes from scratch, how to change and mutate DNA, work with the revolutionary CRISPR technology that is taking the research world by storm! Class will be appropriate for adults, and advanced high school students

August 4th-25th, 2018 from 10 am -2 pm
For more information: Build-a-Gene