Robert L. Snyder



The goal of our Genomics Initiative is to provide students with experience in one of the most rapidly growing areas of biology. Genomics is an integrative science relying heavily of the disciplines of genetics, biochemistry and information sciences.  Geneticists have acquired or are acquiring the full genome sequences of over 35,000 different organisms across nearly 11,000 different species. This data provides invaluable biological information about organisms that are near and dear to us, including pathogens, food crops, biofuel generating microbes, and even humans (the genomes of at least 187 different humans have been fully sequenced to date). As the cost of DNA sequencing continues to drop and the amount of genome sequence data continues to grow, there is an enormous need for trained biologists to generate and analyze genome sequences.

Our Genomics Initiative is unique among SUNY and North Country colleges, and as such will attract prospective students to SUNY Potsdam. It will also help retain students once they are at SUNY Potsdam, including students interested in a health sciences career. In fact, many health care experts have speculated that in the near future, personal genome sequences will be a part of everyone’s medical records. Therefore, our health profession students will be well-trained when this becomes a reality.


Direct goals

  • Expose B.S. majors to the emerging field of genome science. 
  • Excite students with discovery-based research
  • Teach the current theories about how the haploid genome is organized (functional genomics)
  • Teach the current understanding of how proteins are encoded by a given genome (structural genomics)
  • Teach the applied side of genomics, including medical, pharmaceutical, conservation biology applications
  • Create a program in genomics

Indirect goals

  • Increase student recruitment
    • A genomics program would distinguish SUNY Potsdam from other comprehensive campuses
    • While the University Centers may offer genomics programs, we provide smaller class sizes and more faculty interaction.
  • Increase student retention
    • Added diversity to our program should help retain our students
    • Effective pedagogy should retain students in STEM fields
  • Teach skills that help B.S. majors find employment.
  • Prepare B.S. majors for graduate programs in such fields as Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Bioinformatics and Genetics.

Progress to date

  • Genomics centered course offerings
    • BIOL 322 Introduction to Genomics (new course Spring 2015 – Dr. Snyder)
    • BIOL 455 Molecular Genetics (Fall – Dr. Trybula)
    • BIOL 480 Advance topics in Bacterial Genomics (Spring semester – co-taught Drs. Plague & Snyder). A hands-on independent research center course with students asking novel questions about bacterial genome evolution.
  • Resource development
    • We have attained access to a data pipeline and software support from the Genomics Education Partnership.  The GEP is supported by an HHMI grant. This allows us to operate without the overhead required to maintain a genomic lab and computing servers, a huge impediment for most campuses.
    • Dr. Snyder is participant in “Effective Implementation of a Classroom Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE)”, an NSF supported program awarded to Dr. Elgin at Washington University that is looking at bioinformatics approaches to engage and retain students in STEM fields.