Utilizing experiments whose outcomes are already known in a teaching course often dampens students’ enthusiasm. In the course we introduce here, we let students choose genes to study based on their own interests. Students can even “own” the gene they choose to analyze, and complete the analysis from the beginning (identification of the gene via BLAST) to the end (analysis of the RNAi phenotypes, and archiving all the information in a web-based database) all by themselves.

This format will give students the experience of finding novel and unexpected outcomes, a sense of responsibility, and help students be independent and self- motivated, all of which are important parts of the active learning process. Owning a whole project will also increase student confidence in a scientific field, and help encourage students to pursue biological and biomedical careers.