Using Fijiwings to Understand the Genetic Control of Cell Growth and Proliferation: A Computer-Based Laboratory Exercise


Anna Shipman and Leonard Dobens

This lab conveys the core concepts of gene expression and regulation, and in particular how genes control development using a computer-based program to measure the effect of manipulating cell signaling on tissue and cell size. Modules for large introductory classes use example photomicrographs require little set-up while modules can be designed for smaller, upper level courses that use student-produced tissue samples to pursue hypothesis-driven experiments. Overall, this laboratory exercise allows students to apply the knowledge they have acquired in the classroom on gene function, signaling pathways and model organisms. PowerPoint slides and Youtube videos are included to introduce students to this computer tool.
Genetics Concept(s) Addressed:

Gene expression and regulation: How do genes and genomes control changes to an organism’s structure and function throughout its life cycle?

Genetic variation: How do different types of mutations affect genes and the corresponding mRNAs and proteins?

Genetics of model organisms: How do the results of molecular genetic studies in model organisms help us understand aspects of human genetics and genetic diseases?

Core Competencies Addressed:

Students should be able to implement observational strategies to formulate a question
Students should be able to generate testable hypotheses
Students should be able to design an experiment using appropriate controls and appropriate sample sizes
Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data
Students should be able to generate and interpret graphs displaying experimental rules
Students should be able to apply statistical methods when analyzing their data, and use patterns to construct a model
Students should be able to critique large data sets and use bioinformatics to assess genetics data
Students should be able to identify and critique scientific issues relating to society or ethics


Intermediate undergraduate (beginning undergraduate option); biology/genetics majors (non-majors option)
Activity Type:

Inquiry-based Laboratory Exercise
Activity Length:


Module 1: one three-hour lab period
Module 2: one one-hour lab period
Module 3: three four-hour lab periods


Drosophila, insulin signaling, macro, cell growth and proliferation


Shipman, A. and Dobens, L.L. (2015). Using Fijiwings to understand the genetic control of cell growth and proliferation: a computer-based laboratory exercise. Genetics Society of America Peer-Reviewed Education Portal (GSA PREP): 2015.003; doi:10.1534/gsaprep.2015.003

Resource Justification and Instructor Guide

Student Handout(PDF, Word)

PowerPoint Slides