Microbiomes play an important role in the health and development of their plant or animal host, as well as contributing to the nutrient and element cycles that are fundamental to maintaining balance in soil, water, and air. Research into microbiomes and their impact on ecosystems and the environment represents a new and exciting challenge for the scientific community. New technologies offer an opportunity to bring the excitement of microbiome research to undergraduate students through training in the scientific process and engagement in research. Using a course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) model, microbiome projects allow students to conduct experiments that reveal the diversity and complexity of local environmental microbiomes. The Research Experiences in Microbiomes Network (REMNet) project will organize a national network of microbiome experts and CURE practitioners who will create a set of resources for college faculty to involve undergraduate students across the country in microbiome research.
The REMNet will provide and distribute tools for metagenomic analysis tools and lesson plans appropriate for undergraduate classes and will advance our understanding of the diversity of local environmental microbiomes. The REMNet will work closely with the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) at national meetings such as the ASM-Conference for Undergraduate Educators and Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students to recruit new members. Existing microbiome CURE research projects at the City University of New York, the lead institution of the Authentic Research Experience in Microbiology, currently serve hundreds of students from diverse ethnic and academic backgrounds each year; this RCN-UBE project will expand this effort to a national scale as new schools are recruited. The REMNet will broaden participation in microbiome research by undergraduates and will lead to the development of new resources and a standardization of the tools used for microbiome data analysis.
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 to address the challenges posed in Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action (http://visionandchange/finalreport/).
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.