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Introductory Biology

  • Multiple sequence alignment of homologous cytochrome C protein sequences using Jalview viewer.

    Sequence Similarity: An inquiry based and "under the hood" approach for incorporating molecular sequence...

    Learning Objectives
    At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
    • Define similarity in a non-biological and biological sense when provided with two strings of letters.
    • Quantify the similarity between two gene/protein sequences.
    • Explain how a substitution matrix is used to quantify similarity.
    • Calculate amino acid similarity scores using a scoring matrix.
    • Demonstrate how to access genomic data (e.g., from NCBI nucleotide and protein databases).
    • Demonstrate how to use bioinformatics tools to analyze genomic data (e.g., BLASTP), explain a simplified BLAST search algorithm including how similarity is used to perform a BLAST search, and how to evaluate the results of a BLAST search.
    • Create a nearest-neighbor distance matrix.
    • Create a multiple sequence alignment using a nearest-neighbor distance matrix and a phylogram based on similarity of amino acid sequences.
    • Use appropriate bioinformatics sequence alignment tools to investigate a biological question.
  • Image of a writing center

    Visits to the writing center and office hours provide students structured reflection and low-stakes feedback on...

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will be able to write a lab report that contains a descriptive title, complete and concise abstract, substantive and relevant introduction that includes a testable hypothesis, descriptive methods, description and comparison of results of various testable groups, biological explanation of the results that reflect the testable hypothesis, a conclusion that contains societal implications or scientific impact, and references cited in the document.
    • Students will be able to self-identify weaknesses and strengths of their writing.
    • Students will understand how to utilize office hours and the writing center to receive feedback on their lab reports.
  • photo credit John Friedlein. Author (SRB) helps a student troubleshooting RStudio in the workshop session of class.
  • Using phylogenetics to make inferences about historical biogeographic patterns of evolution.

    Building Trees: Introducing evolutionary concepts by exploring Crassulaceae phylogeny and biogeography

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Estimate phylogenetic trees using diverse data types and phylogenetic models.
    • Correctly make inferences about evolutionary history and relatedness from the tree diagrams obtained.
    • Use selected computer programs for phylogenetic analysis.
    • Use bootstrapping to assess the statistical support for a phylogeny.
    • Use phylogenetic data to construct, compare, and evaluate the role of geologic processes in shaping the historical and current geographic distributions of a group of organisms.
  • Modeling the Research Process: Authentic human physiology research in a large non-majors course

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Read current scientific literature
    • Formulate testable hypotheses
    • Design an experimental procedure to test their hypothesis
    • Make scientific observations
    • Analyze and interpret data
    • Communicate results visually and orally
  • A three-dimensional model of methionine is superimposed on a phase contrast micrograph of Saccharomyces cerevisiae from a log phase culture.

    Follow the Sulfur: Using Yeast Mutants to Study a Metabolic Pathway

    Learning Objectives
    At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
    • use spot plating techniques to compare the growth of yeast strains on solid culture media.
    • predict the ability of specific met deletion strains to grow on media containing various sulfur sources.
    • predict how mutations in specific genes will affect the concentrations of metabolites in the pathways involved in methionine biosynthesis.
  • Pipets - photo by Magnus Manske

    Learning to Pipet Correctly by Pipetting Incorrectly?

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will be able to use analytical balances and micropipettes.
    • Students will be able to calculate averages and standard deviations.
    • Students will be able to use t-tests to compare two independent samples.
    • Students will be able to justify accepting or rejecting a null hypothesis based on an interpretation of p-values.
    • Students will learn to use spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel and/or Google Sheets
    • Students will be able to explain how pipetting incorrectly leads to errors.
  • This is a representation of what might happen during peer discussion.

    In-class peer grading of daily quizzes increases feedback opportunities

    Learning Objectives
    Each of these objectives are illustrated with a succinct slide presentation or other supplemental material available ahead of class time through the course administration system. Learners found it particularly helpful to have video clips that remind them of mathematical manipulations available (in the above example objective c). Students understand that foundational objectives tend to be the focus of the quiz (objectives a-d) and that others will be given more time to work on together in class (objectives e-g), but I don't specify this exactly to reduce temptation that 'gamers' take a shortcut that would impact their group work negatively later on. However, the assignment for a focused graded group activity is posted as well, so it is clear what we are working towards; if desired individuals could prepare ahead of the class.
  • Summary diagram of the Pipeline CURE. A diagram describing how undergraduates, faculty, and research trainees progress through a sequence of guided research activities that develop student independence.
  • Image from http://www.epa.gov/airdata/ad_maps.html

    Air Quality Data Mining: Mining the US EPA AirData website for student-led evaluation of air quality issues

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Describe various parameters of air quality that can negatively impact human health, list priority air pollutants, and interpret the EPA Air Quality Index as it relates to human health.
    • Identify an air quality problem that varies on spatial and/or temporal scales that can be addressed using publicly available U.S. EPA air data.
    • Collect appropriate U.S. EPA Airdata information needed to answer that/those questions, using the U.S. EPA Airdata website data mining tools.
    • Analyze the data as needed to address or answer their question(s).
    • Interpret data and draw conclusions regarding air quality levels and/or impacts on human and public health.
    • Communicate results in the form of a scientific paper.
  • Human karyotype

    Homologous chromosomes? Exploring human sex chromosomes, sex determination and sex reversal using bioinformatics...

    Learning Objectives
    Students successfully completing this lesson will:
    • Practice navigating an online bioinformatics resource and identify evidence relevant to solving investigation questions
    • Contrast the array of genes expected on homologous autosomal chromosomes pairs with the array of genes expected on sex chromosome pairs
    • Use bioinformatics evidence to defend the definition of homologous chromosomes
    • Define chromosomal sex and defend the definition using experimental data
    • Investigate the genetic basis of human chromosomal sex determination
    • Identify at least two genetic mutations can lead to sex reversal
  • Adult female Daphnia dentifera. Daphnia spp. make a great study system due to their transparent body and their ease of upkeep in a lab.

    Dynamic Daphnia: An inquiry-based research experience in ecology that teaches the scientific process to first-year...

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Construct written predictions about 1 factor experiments.
    • Interpret simple (2 variables) figures.
    • Construct simple (2 variables) figures from data.
    • Design simple 1 factor experiments with appropriate controls.
    • Demonstrate proper use of standard laboratory items, including a two-stop pipette, stereomicroscope, and laboratory notebook.
    • Calculate means and standard deviations.
    • Given some scaffolding (instructions), select the correct statistical test for a data set, be able to run a t-test, ANOVA, chi-squared test, and linear regression in Microsoft Excel, and be able to correctly interpret their results.
    • Construct and present a scientific poster.
  • Set Up Fly Traps: The photo is of the fly traps after being set up for the experiment

    Gotcha! Which fly trap is the best? An introduction to experimental data collection and analysis

    Learning Objectives
    Students will:
    • design and execute an experiment
    • collect, organize, and summarize data
    • analyze and interpret data and make inferences
  • Hydrozoan polyps on a hermit-crab shell (photo by Tiffany Galush)

    A new approach to course-based research using a hermit crab-hydrozoan symbiosis

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • define different types of symbiotic interactions, with specific examples.
    • summarize and critically evaluate contemporary primary literature relevant to ecological symbioses, in particular that between hermit crabs and Hydractinia spp.
    • articulate a question, based on observations of a natural phenomenon (in this example, the hermit crab-Hydractinia interaction).
    • articulate a testable hypothesis, based on their own observations and read of the literature.
    • design appropriate experimental or observational studies to address their hypotheses.
    • collect and interpret data in light of their hypotheses.
    • problem-solve and troubleshoot issues that arise during their experiment.
    • communicate scientific results, both orally and in written form.
  • This collage contains original images taken by the course instructor. The images show a microscopic view of stomata on the underside of a Brassica rapa leaf (A), B. rapa plants in their growth trays (B), a flowering B. rapa plant (C), and different concentrations of foliar protein (D). Photos edited via Microsoft Windows Photo Editor and Phototastic Collage Maker.

    A flexible, multi-week approach to plant biology - How will plants respond to higher levels of CO2?

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Apply findings from each week's lesson to make predictions and informed hypotheses about the next week's lesson.
    • Keep a detailed laboratory notebook.
    • Write and peer-edit the sections of a scientific paper, and collaboratively write an entire lab report in the form of a scientific research paper.
    • Search for, find, and read scientific research papers.
    • Work together as a team to conduct experiments.
    • Connect findings and ideas from each week's lesson to get a broader understanding of how plants will respond to higher levels of CO2 (e.g., stomatal density, photosynthetic/respiratory rates, foliar protein concentrations, growth, and resource allocation).
    Note: Additional, more specific objectives are included with each of the four lessons (Supporting Files S1-S4)
  • DNA barcoding research in first-year biology curriculum

    CURE-all: Large Scale Implementation of Authentic DNA Barcoding Research into First-Year Biology Curriculum

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to: Week 1-4: Fundamentals of Science and Biology
    • List the major processes involved in scientific discovery
    • List the different types of scientific studies and which types can establish causation
    • Design experiments with appropriate controls
    • Create and evaluate phylogenetic trees
    • Define taxonomy and phylogeny and explain their relationship to each other
    • Explain DNA sequence divergence and how it applies to evolutionary relationships and DNA barcoding
    Week 5-6: Ecology
    • Define and measure biodiversity and explain its importance
    • Catalog organisms using the morphospecies concept
    • Geographically map organisms using smartphones and an online mapping program
    • Calculate metrics of species diversity using spreadsheet software
    • Use spreadsheet software to quantify and graph biodiversity at forest edges vs. interiors
    • Write a formal lab report
    Week 7-11: Cellular and Molecular Biology
    • Extract, amplify, visualize and sequence DNA using standard molecular techniques (PCR, gel electrophoresis, Sanger sequencing)
    • Explain how DNA extraction, PCR, gel electrophoresis, and Sanger sequencing work at the molecular level
    Week 12-13: Bioinformatics
    • Trim and assemble raw DNA sequence data
    • Taxonomically identify DNA sequences isolated from unknown organisms using BLAST
    • Visualize sequence data relationships using sequence alignments and gene-based phylogenetic trees
    • Map and report data in a publicly available online database
    • Share data in a formal scientific poster
  • Bacteria growing on petri dish

    You and Your Oral Microflora: Introducing non-biology majors to their “forgotten organ”

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Explain both beneficial and detrimental roles of microbes in human health.
    • Compare and contrast DNA replication as it occurs inside a cell versus in a test tube
    • Identify an unknown sequence of DNA by performing a BLAST search
    • Navigate sources of scientific information to assess the accuracy of their experimental techniques
  • Using the Cell Engineer/Detective Approach to Explore Cell Structure and Function

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Identify the major cell organelles
    • List the major functions of the organelles
    • Predict how changes in organelle/cell structure could alter cellular function
    • Explain how overall cellular function is dependent upon organelles/cell structure
    • Relate cell structure to everyday contexts
  • pClone Red Makes Research Look Easy

    Using Synthetic Biology and pClone Red for Authentic Research on Promoter Function: Introductory Biology (identifying...

    Learning Objectives
    • Describe how cells can produce proteins at the right time and correct amount.
    • Diagram how a repressor works to reduce transcription.
    • Diagram how an activator works to increase transcription.
    • Identify a new promoter from literature and design a method to clone it and test its function.
    • Successfully and safely manipulate DNA and Escherichia coli for ligation and transformation experiments.
    • Design an experiment to verify a new promoter has been cloned into a destination vector.
    • Design an experiment to measure the strength of a promoter.
    • Analyze data showing reporter protein produced and use the data to assess promoter strength.
    • Define type IIs restriction enzymes.
    • Distinguish between type II and type IIs restriction enzymes.
    • Explain how Golden Gate Assembly (GGA) works.
    • Measure the relative strength of a promoter compared to a standard promoter.
  • Enzymatic avocado browning is driven by polyphenol oxidase. Mashed avocado pulp is bright green but turns dark brown over the course of two hours at room temperature in the presence of air and salt. This reaction can be accelerated or inhibited by more than 20 different testable reagents, allowing students to explore experimental design.

    The Avocado Lab: An Inquiry-Driven Exploration of an Enzymatic Browning Reaction

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • develop a testable research question and supportive hypothesis regarding the browning of damaged avocado flesh caused by the activity of avocado polyphenol oxidase (aPPO).
    • design and execute a well-controlled experiment to test aPPO hypotheses.
    • evaluate qualitative enzyme activity data.
    • create a figure and legend to present qualitative data that tests multiple hypotheses and variables.
    • search for and correctly cite primary literature to support or refute hypotheses.
    • know the role of reducing reagents, pH, chelators, and temperature in reactions catalyzed by aPPO.
    • explain why the effects of salt and detergent differ for aPPO experiments conducted in situ
    • (in mashed avocado flesh) as compared to in vitro (on purified protein).
    • discuss how substrate and cofactor availability affect aPPO reactions.
    • describe how endogenous subcellular organization restricts aPPO reactions in a healthy avocado.
    • evaluate food handling practices for fruits expressing PPO.
  • Peterson MP, Rosvall KA, Choi J-H, Ziegenfus C, Tang H, Colbourne JK, et al. (2013) Testosterone Affects Neural Gene Expression Differently in Male and Female Juncos: A Role for Hormones in Mediating Sexual Dimorphism and Conflict. PLoS ONE 8(4): e61784. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061784

    Teaching RNAseq at Undergraduate Institutions: A tutorial and R package from the Genome Consortium for Active Teaching

    Learning Objectives
    • From raw RNAseq data, run a basic analysis culminating in a list of differentially expressed genes.
    • Explain and evaluate statistical tests in RNAseq data. Specifically, given the output of a particular test, students should be able to interpret and explain the result.
    • Use the Linux command line to complete specified objectives in an RNAseq workflow.
    • Generate meaningful visualizations of results from new data in R.
    • (In addition, each chapter of this lesson plan contains more specific learning objectives, such as “Students will demonstrate their ability to map reads to a reference.”)