This project expands and enriches a semester long research based molecular biology laboratory course into a novel year-long research based curriculum that emphasizes experimental design and execution, data interpretation, and written and oral presentation skills as integral components of the course. The year-long approach has been piloted and preliminary assessment studies demonstrate significant learning gains by undergraduate students completing the two semester series. The year-long program will be completed by all biology majors and will be spread over two courses: Genetics (BIO231) and Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Biology (BIO335). In both courses, specific content areas covered in lab will predominantly reflect the respective parent courses; during BIO231 students will develop and refine experimental methods to conduct and analyze a microarray experiment to study the effects of osmotic stress on yeast cells. These data will be used as a roadmap in the following semester in BIO335, where they will clone candidate genes involved in osmotic stress and ultimately, design and conduct cell-based functional assays to test hypotheses generated throughout the term. The project also pilots the addition of a service learning option, a science outreach program to serve high-need schools in New York City, as a feature of the course.

INTELLECTUAL MERIT: Students in these revised courses employ an interdisciplinary approach, relying upon modern genomic, molecular and cell biology methodologies, including RNA-Seq technology, to answer a well-defined biological question. Interdisciplinary approaches are increasingly being emphasized in all STEM disciplines. In addition the writing component represents a trend that is beginning to emerge as an effective way to improve student learning gains. The results of the evaluation of this project should add to what is known about effective ways to improve undergraduate biology laboratories and for students and faculty to profit from introduction of research-based student laboratories. Comparison of student scores on the Educational Testing Service Major Field Test in Biology are being used to assess effects on student learning, along with the use of surveys and focus groups, as well as the writing assignments to assess both learning and attitudinal changes.

BROADER IMPACTS: Piloting of the service learning component adds to the broader impacts of this project. The project is participating in the CURE survey of Dr. Lopatto, thus contributing to a national data base concerning the outcomes of research-based student laboratories. Results are being widely disseminated through regional and national workshops and disciplinary annual meetings and publications.

This project is being jointly funded by the Directorate for Biological Sciences and the Directorate for Education and Human Resources, Division of Undergraduate Education as part of their efforts toward support of Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)
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Virginia Carter
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Pace University New York Campus
New York
United States
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