How to Use SARS-CoV-2 to Introduce Bioinformatics

To prevent coronavirus spread, we cannot do a lot besides disinfect surfaces, wash our hands, encourage students to stay home if they are sick, and avoid travel to areas with epidemics. But we as science teachers have a unique opportunity to educate students about the biology behind the virus and introduce the field of bioinformatics in the process!

I have been working on a special resource that you can use as a biology teacher to explore a little of the bioinformatics side of biology AND review protein synthesis at the same time! You can find it in my free resource library (subscribe with the form below)!

In this resource, you will find a teacher answer key and a separate student PDF you can have students write on using Kami or a similar PDF annotating program (or print out and have students work on paper). Students will need internet access for this activity and you must use this after they have already learned about protein synthesis (transcription and especially translation).

With this activity, students will first examine a diagram online showing how the virus replicates and answer questions.

Next, students will examine the NCBI’s website to see how many sequences are publicly available (don’t worry, I know these websites can be overwhelming but I have a step-by-step process in this activity!). This is a great time for students to learn about GenBank and how scientists use it to share data with each other!

There are step by step instructions for this activity!

Then students will examine an actual SARS-CoV-2 reference sequence and identify the parts included in the viral genome; they will see what proteins are encoded by the genes in the viral RNA genome and they can connect them to the earlier part of the activity when they learned about the viral life cycle.

In this activity, students will learn how GenBank sequences are stored and annotated.

Students will also see graphical representations of the viral genome and you can use this to remind students what ORFs are!

If you’re not already subscribed to my email, you can subscribe with the form below and receive access to this activity!

Hope you all have a great day and go wash your hands!

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