Through faculty workshops and an open source website, called Genome Solver, covering both effective teaching approaches and the use of biogenomics and genomics tools for undergraduate research, the project is creating a framework for faculty development that impacts student learning and has the potential to add to our general knowledge about the human microbiome. It is a collaboration between a number of entities, the PI and her group in the Department of Biology at Georgetown, a group at Simmons College, the Georgetown Center for New Designs in Learning (the developer of the Global Solver [http://globalsolver.org] upon which Genome Solver is based) and the J. Craig Venter Institute (the site of the faculty workshops and developer of the genomic tools).
Intellectual Merit: The project is timely in its materials and its approach to making those materials available. It is helping faculty keep their courses current with new developments in the literature and in approaches to teaching. In addition it is encouraging use of student laboratories as a place for groups of students, faculty, and bioinformatics experts to collaborate in research on important topics in the genetics of microbes affecting human health and behavior. Ongoing research in these student laboratories has the potential for being deposited in GenBank and prepared for publication in refereed journals. Examples of the tools students are learning to use include BLAST, ClustalW, and hidden Markov model approaches for protein domains. Students start out with a computer-based analysis of genomic data and then use this information to generate hypotheses that are then tested by wet lab experiments to investigate an aspect of microbial physiology stemming from that analysis.
Broader Impact: Genome Solver is creating an online community where students and experts across different institutions can come together to discuss science and curricular ideas. Faculty from minority serving institutions are part of the workshop recruitment and team and advisory board to insure that this work will benefit a diversity of institutions.
This project is being jointly funded by the Directorate for Biological Sciences, Division of Biological Infrastructure and the Directorate for Education and Human Resources, Division of Undergraduate Education as part of their efforts toward Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education.