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Science Process Skills

  • Plant ecology students surveying vegetation at Red Hills, CA, spring 2012.  From left to right are G.L, F.D, A.M., and R.P.  Photo used with permission from all students.

    Out of Your Seat and on Your Feet! An adaptable course-based research project in plant ecology for advanced students

    Learning Objectives
    Students will:
    • Articulate testable hypotheses. (Lab 8, final presentation/paper, in-class exercises)
    • Analyze data to determine the level of support for articulated hypotheses. (Labs 4-7, final presentation/paper)
    • Identify multiple species of plants in the field quickly and accurately. (Labs 2-3, field trip)
    • Measure environmental variables and sample vegetation in the field. (Labs 2-3, field trip)
    • Analyze soil samples using a variety of low-tech lab techniques. (Open labs after field trip)
    • Use multiple statistical techniques to analyze data for patterns. (Labs 4-8, final presentation/paper)
    • Interpret statistical analyses to distinguish between strong and weak interactions in a biological system. (Labs 4-7, final presentation/paper)
    • Develop and present a conference-style presentation in a public forum. (Lab 8, final presentation/paper)
    • Write a publication-ready research paper communicating findings and displaying data. (Lab 8, final presentation/paper)
  • 3D Print Model of the Mars Curiosity Rover, printed from NASA 3D Resources (https://nasa3d.arc.nasa.gov/detail/mars-rover-curiosity)

    Exploring the March to Mars Using 3D Print Models

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will be able to describe the major aspects of the Mars Curiosity Rover missions.
    • Students will be able to synthesize information learned from a classroom jigsaw activity on the Mars Curiosity Rover missions.
    • Students will be able to work in teams to plan a future manned mission to Mars.
    • Students will be able to summarize their reports to the class.
  • Your Tax Dollars at Work: A mock grant writing experience centered on scientific process skills

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Propose a testable, novel question contributing to a biological field of study.
    • Formulate a study rationale.
    • Describe relevant background information on a topic using the primary literature.
    • Choose appropriate scientific, mathematical, and statistical methods to analyze a research question.
    • Determine the financial costs of a research project.
    • Present a proposal for peer review and compose a constructive peer review.
    • Collaborate as a member of a scientific team.
    • Articulate the review criteria and process used in NSF-style proposal review.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Building a Model of Tumorigenesis: A small group activity for a cancer biology/cell biology course

    Learning Objectives
    At the end of the activity, students will be able to:
    • Analyze data from a retrospective clinical study uncovering genetic alterations in colorectal cancer.
    • Draw conclusions about human tumorigenesis using data from a retrospective clinical study.
    • Present scientific data in an appropriate and accurate way.
    • Discuss why modeling is an important practice of science.
    • Create a simple model of the genetic changes associated with a particular human cancer.
  • Memory Helper is an illustration of a made up dietary supplement. Because the supplement is named Memory Helper, and because a picture of a brain is placed on the label, consumers might believe that the supplement is a memory aid. We add the footnote “tested?” to suggest that consumers should take a closer look.

    Bad Science: Exploring the unethical research behind a putative memory supplement

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • create criteria for evaluating information that is touted as scientific.
    • apply those criteria to evaluate the claim that Prevagen® enhances memory.
    • identify the misleading tactics used on the Prevagen® website and in their self-published reporting.
    • decide whether to recommend taking Prevagen® and explain their decisions.
  • 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.
  • Students at Century College use gel electrophoresis to analyze PCR samples in order to detect a group of ampicillin-resistance genes.

    Antibiotic Resistance Genes Detection in Environmental Samples

    Learning Objectives
    After completing this laboratory series, students will be able to:
    • apply the scientific method in formulating a hypothesis, designing a controlled experiment using appropriate molecular biology techniques, and analyzing experimental results;
    • conduct a molecular biology experiment and explain the principles behind methodologies, such as accurate use of micropipettes, PCR (polymerase chain reaction), and gel electrophoresis;
    • determine the presence of antibiotic-resistance genes in environmental samples by analyzing PCR products using gel electrophoresis;
    • explain mechanisms of microbial antibiotic resistance;
    • contribute data to the Antibiotic Resistance Genes Network;
    • define and apply key concepts of antibiotic resistance and gene identification via PCR fragment size.
  • Sample Student Growth Curve. This image shows a yeast growth curve generated by a student in our lab, superimposed on an image of Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells.

    Using Yeast to Make Scientists: A Six-Week Student-Driven Research Project for the Cell Biology Laboratory

    Learning Objectives
    • Learn about basic S. cerevisiae biology
    • Use sterile technique
    • Perform a yeast viability assay
    • Use a spectrophotometer to measure growth of S. cerevisiae
    • Perform a literature search
    • Calculate concentrations of chemicals appropriate for S. cerevisiae
    • Generate S. cerevisiae growth curves
    • Troubleshoot experimental difficulties
    • Perform statistical analysis
    • Present findings to an audience
  • 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.