Despite the accelerating expansion of online resources for modern life science education and training, the reality is that development of molecular biology laboratory-based skills requires `hands-on' instruction, preferably in a research-oriented context. Keeping pace with recent scientific breakthroughs and incorporating such developments into the educational setting is challenging from both workforce and economic perspectives. Yet, educational strategies that rely on traditional, lecture alone or outdated, laboratory experiences ineffectively prepare the current and future generations of the US biomedical workforce. Here, we propose to develop and implement a new paradigm for teaching modular molecular biology-oriented laboratory courses that relate established critical skills to cutting-edge technologies in support of the professional viability of modern biologists and biotechnologists. Our overarching goal is to initiate and support a collaborative effort to `teach the teachers' how to Designate, Design, Develop, Deploy and Disseminate (5-D) Molecular Biotechnology Laboratory Education Modules (MBLEMs) on cutting-edge topics across the higher education landscape.
This aim will be accomplished by fostering multi-institution cooperation, creative new pedagogical approaches, and integration of interdisciplinary research and bioethics into novel educational modules. We will collaborate initially with teams of participants from five different institutions, and then add three new partners along the way, that collectively represent a broad range of higher educational missions. In support of the MBLEM effort, we will establish a virtual support network, i.e., ongoing inter-institution communication throughout the year to enable MBLEM implementation, led by faculty and teaching postdoctoral fellows at North Carolina State University (NC State). The year-long, 5-D support process will be centered around an annual summer workshop at NC State attended by representatives of our partner institutions that will nucleate interdisciplinary teams of faculty, teaching assistants (graduate students and postdoctoral fellows) and experienced MBLEM instructors. As part of this process, we will organize career development and outreach opportunities that bring together faculty and students from the partner institutions, including those that focus on serving minority students and students with disabilities, to form a supportive and inclusive community fostering modern life science laboratory training. We will also assess MBLEM dissemination and the impact of training on participating MBLEM institutions educational programs and students. Assessment will enable the identification of challenges faced at different institutions and reveal how to better train diverse groups of students in critical skills needed to be productive members of the US biomedical workforce.
Despite the accelerating expansion of online resources for modern life science education and training, the reality is that development of molecular biology laboratory-based skills requires `hands-on' instruction, preferably in a research-oriented context. Educational strategies that rely on lecture alone or traditional, but outdated, laboratory experiences ineffectively prepare the current and future generations of the US biomedical workforce. New paradigms are needed for molecular biology lab training that are flexible, inclusive, broadly applicable and supportive of inter-institutional cooperation, all of which is addressed in the proposed project.