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  • Students participating in the peer review process. Practicing the writing of scientific manuscripts prepares students to understand and engage in the primary literature they encounter.
  • 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.
  • blind cave fish
  • Science press release cartoon.  Cartoon of a newspaper with the headline “Extra Extra! Cell Biology Makes Headlines!”

    Teaching students to read, interpret, and write about scientific research: A press release assignment in a large, lower...

    Learning Objectives
    Students will:
    • interpret the main conclusions and their supporting evidence in a primary research article.
    • concisely communicate the significance of scientific findings to an educated nonspecialist audience.
    • identify the components of a primary research article and the components of the "inverted pyramid" press release structure.
    • identify the central figure in a primary research paper and describe its key finding.
    • demonstrate an understanding of intellectual property by giving appropriate credit to other people's original work.
  • 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.
  • 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.