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Science Process Skills

  • 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.
  • DNA

    Why do Some People Inherit a Predisposition to Cancer? A small group activity on cancer genetics

    Learning Objectives
    At the end of this activity, we expect students will be able to:
    1. Use family pedigrees and additional genetic information to determine inheritance patterns for hereditary forms of cancer
    2. Explain why a person with or without cancer can pass on a mutant allele to the next generation and how that impacts probability calculations
    3. Distinguish between proto-oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes
  • Example image of dividing cells obtained from the Allen Institute for Cell Science 3D Cell Viewer.

    A virtual laboratory on cell division using a publicly-available image database

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will name and describe the salient features and cellular tasks for each stage of cell division.
    • Students will predict the relative durations of the stages of cell division using prior knowledge and facts from assigned readings.
    • Students will describe the relationship between duration of each stage of cell division and the frequency of cells present in each stage of cell division counted in a random sample of images of pluripotent stem cells.
    • Students will identify the stages of cell division present in research-quality images of human pluripotent stem cells in various stages of cell division.
    • Students will quantify, analyze and summarize data on the prevalence of cells at different stages of cell division in randomly sampled cell populations.
    • Students will use data to reflect on and revise predictions.
  • 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
  • 3D Print Model of the Mars Curiosity Rover, printed from NASA 3D Resources (

    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.
  • 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
  • Teaching epidemiology and principles of infectious disease using popular media and the case of Typhoid Mary

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Describe the reservoirs of infection in humans.
    • Distinguish portals of entry and exit.
    • Describe how each of the following contributes to bacterial virulence: adhesins, extracellular enzymes, toxins, and antiphagocytic factors.
    • Define and distinguish etiology and epidemiology.
    • Describe the five typical stages of infectious disease and depict the stages in graphical form.
    • Contrast contact, vehicle and vector transmission, biological and mechanical vectors and identify the mode of transmission in a given scenario.
    • Differentiate endemic, sporadic, epidemic, and pandemic disease.
    • Distinguish descriptive, analytical, and experimental epidemiology.
    • Compare and contrast social, economic, and cultural factors impacting health care in the early 1900s and today.
  • 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