Diabetes is a disease of enormous health significance in the US and is also the most common cause of kidney disease. The NIDDK plays a crucial role in efforts to better understand and treat these diseases by fostering and supporting innovative basic and applied research projects. However, converging lines of evidence indicate that NIDDK's future success will be limited by the paucity of students entering careers in biomedical research. This five-year project is a component of our long-term goal of stimulating US students to consider careers in science. The objectives of this project are to create and rigorously evaluate curricular materials that utilize an innovative combination of high quality 3-D animations and videogame engine technologies to engage students in the pathophysiology of kidney disease and the research models used to study the renal effects of diabetes. In this project, we will develop scaffolded, inquiry-based curricular materials that will engage today's technology-savvy undergraduate students, cultivate scientific habits of mind, and encourage students to consider careers in biomedical research. The inquiry-based learning activities created in this project will expose students to the processes that underlie normal renal function and the changes that occur as the result of diabetes, particularly those that result in the development of systemic hypertension and kidney failure. The opportunities for students to explore the fundamental aspects of kidney function in health and diabetes will be further enhanced by the creation of two interactive case studies. The case studies that will be developed and evaluated in this project include a clinical case study highlighting the clinical effects of diabetes-induced kidney disease, and a research case study in which the students will simulate experimental models of diabetes. These case studies will be designed to promote the development of the habits of mind that characterize scientists, namely making observations, developing and testing hypotheses, collecting, analyzing and interpreting data, and drawing conclusions. The integrative curricular materials and interactive case studies will be rigorously evaluated to assess their impact on student achievement and interest in biomedical research as a possible career. In doing so, we will contribute to NIDDK's core mission by improving student understanding of these disease processes and encouraging students to consider careers in disease-oriented biomedical research.
Diabetes and kidney diseases will only be conquered by producing the next generation of biomedical research scientists. To help achieve this goal, our team is developing interactive educational materials that engage students, help them develop the habits of mind that characterize scientists, and expose them to the links between diabetes and kidney disease. In this project, we will test whether our new approach to teaching science can improve the performance of students in physiology classes and improve their attitudes towards possible careers in biomedical research.