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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.
  • 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)
  • Students using the Understanding Eukaryotic Genes curriculum to construct a gene model. Students are working as a pair to complete each Module using classroom computers.

    An undergraduate bioinformatics curriculum that teaches eukaryotic gene structure

    Learning Objectives
    Module 1
    • Demonstrate basic skills in using the UCSC Genome Browser to navigate to a genomic region and to control the display settings for different evidence tracks.
    • Explain the relationships among DNA, pre-mRNA, mRNA, and protein.
    Module 2
    • Describe how a primary transcript (pre-mRNA) can be synthesized using a DNA molecule as the template.
    • Explain the importance of the 5' and 3' regions of the gene for initiation and termination of transcription by RNA polymerase II.
    • Identify the beginning and the end of a transcript using the capabilities of the genome browser.
    Module 3
    • Explain how the primary transcript generated by RNA polymerase II is processed to become a mature mRNA, using the sequence signals identified in Module 2.
    • Use the genome browser to analyze the relationships among:
    • pre-mRNA
    • 5' capping
    • 3' polyadenylation
    • splicing
    • mRNA
    Module 4
    • Identify splice donor and acceptor sites that are best supported by RNA-Seq data and TopHat splice junction predictions.
    • Utilize the canonical splice donor and splice acceptor sequences to identify intron-exon boundaries.
    Module 5
    • Determine the codons for specific amino acids and identify reading frames by examining the Base Position track in the genome browser.
    • Assemble exons to maintain the open reading frame (ORF) for a given gene.
    • Define the phases of the splice donor and acceptor sites and describe how they impact the maintenance of the ORF.
    • Identify the start and stop codons of an assembled ORF.
    Module 6
    • Demonstrate how alternative splicing of a gene can lead to different mRNAs.
    • Show how alternative splicing can lead to the production of different polypeptides and result in drastic changes in phenotype.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • A A student assists Colorado Parks & Wildlife employees spawning greenback cutthroat trout at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery; B greenback cutthroat trout adults in a hatchery raceway; C tissue samples collected by students to be used for genetic analysis (images taken by S. Love Stowell)

    Cutthroat trout in Colorado: A case study connecting evolution and conservation

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • interpret figures such as maps, phylogenies, STRUCTURE plots, and networks for species delimitation
    • identify sources of uncertainty and disagreement in real data sets
    • propose research to address or remedy uncertainty
    • construct an evidence-based argument for the management of a rare taxon
  • pClone Red Makes Research Look Easy

    Using Synthetic Biology and pClone Red for Authentic Research on Promoter Function: Genetics (analyzing mutant...

    Learning Objectives
    • Describe how cells can produce proteins at the right time and correct amount. 
    • Diagram a bacterial promoter with −35 and −10 elements and the transcription start site.
    • Describe how mutational analysis can be used to study promoter sequence requirements.
    • Develop a promoter mutation hypothesis and design an experiment to test it.
    • Successfully and safely manipulate DNA and Escherichia coli for ligation and transformation experiments. 
    • Design an experiment to verify a mutated 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.  
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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

    Using CRISPR-Cas9 to teach the fundamentals of molecular biology and experimental design

    Learning Objectives
    Module 1
    • Generate a testable hypothesis that requires a creative design of reagents based on critical reading of and review of prior research.
    • Demonstrate proficiency in using molecular cloning software to analyze, manipulate and verify DNA sequences.
    • Predict the downstream effect on the mRNA and protein after successfully inserting a DNA repair template into the genome of a cell/organism.
    • Compare and contrast the processes of DNA duplication and PCR.
    • Demonstrate the ability to design primers to amplify a nucleotide sequence.
    • Analyze and evaluate the results of DNA agarose gel electrophoresis.
    Module 2
    • Identify the key features in genomic DNA, specifically those required for CRISPR-Cas9 mediated gene edits.
    • Explain how compatible ends of DNA are used to produce recombinant DNA in a ligation reaction.
    • Explain the chemical principles behind plasmid DNA purification from bacterial cultures.
    • Devise a strategy to screen clones based on antibiotic selection and the mechanism of digestion by DNA endonucleases.
    • Predict and evaluate the results of a diagnostic digest.
    Module 3
    • Explain the chemical principles behind DNA purification using phenol-chloroform extraction and ethanol precipitation.
    • Explain the key differences between DNA duplication and transcription.
    • Demonstrate the ability to perform lab work with sterile technique.
    • Compare and contrast the results of a non-denaturing vs. denaturing agarose gel.
    • Evaluate the results of a denaturing agarose gel.
    Module 4
    • Design and implement an experiment that tests the CRISPR-Cas9 principle.
    • Predict the outcome of a successful in vitro Cas9 digest.
    Presentation of Data Post Lesson
    • Summarize important background information on gene of interest from analysis of primary literature.
    • Produce figures and figure legends that clearly indicate results.
    • Organize and construct a poster that clearly and professionally displays the important aspects of the lesson.
    • Demonstrate understanding of the lesson by presenting a poster to an audience in lay terms, mid-level terms, or at an expert level.
    • Demonstrate understanding of procedures by writing a formal materials and methods paper.
  • photo credit John Friedlein. Author (SRB) helps a student troubleshooting RStudio in the workshop session of class.
  • Possible implementations of a short research module

    A Short Laboratory Module to Help Infuse Metacognition during an Introductory Course-based Research Experience

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will be able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of data.
    • Students will be able to employ prior knowledge in formulating a biological research question or hypothesis.
    • Students will be able to distinguish a research question from a testable hypothesis.
    • Students will recognize that the following are essential elements in experimental design: identifying gaps in prior knowledge, picking an appropriate approach (ex. experimental tools and controls) for testing a hypothesis, and reproducibility and repeatability.
    • Students will be able to identify appropriate experimental tools, approaches and controls to use in testing a hypothesis.
    • Students will be able to accurately explain why an experimental approach they have selected is a good choice for testing a particular hypothesis.
    • Students will be able to discuss whether experimental outcomes support or fail to support a particular hypothesis, and in the case of the latter, discuss possible reasons why.
  • CRISPR/Cas9 in yeast experimental overview

    CRISPR/Cas9 in yeast: a multi-week laboratory exercise for undergraduate students

    Learning Objectives
    Week 1: CRISPR design
    • Locate the coding sequence, flanking sequence, protein product, and characteristics of a given gene from the Saccharomyces Genome Database (https://www.yeastgenome.org/).
    • Design and defend the design of guide RNA and single stranded template for DNA repair in CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing studies to generate Saccharomyces cerevisiae auxotrophic mutants.
    Week 3-4: Cloning
    • Describe the qualities of the vector, pML104, that allow replication and selection in bacteria and yeast as well as allow expression of necessary factors in CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing, including Cas9 and sgRNA.
    • Describe the rationale of and perform procedures necessary for cloning a small cassette (i.e., sgRNA gene) into a vector (i.e., pML104) including; restriction digest, annealing of DNA strands, removal of 5’ phosphates, ligation, and transformation.
    • Recognize and design appropriate controls for cloning procedures such as ligation and transformation.
    Week 5: Screening clones
    • Describe the method of polymerase chain reaction (PCR), including the rationale for essential components of a reaction mixture and thermal-cycling conditions.
    • Locate the binding sites of and design primers for PCR, then report the expected size of the amplification product.
    • Describe and perform isolation of plasmid DNA from E. coli.  
    Week 6: Selection of clones and transformation of yeast
    • Describe the rationale for and perform procedures to transform yeast, including the essential components of a transformation mixture and conditions necessary for transformation.
    • Describe the basic conditions required for cultivating yeast.
    • Describe the rationale for and perform agarose gel electrophoresis of a given size of DNA.
    • Analyze DNA separated by agarose gel electrophoresis, including size estimation.
    • Recognize and describe the qualities of a template for DNA repair that allows efficient DNA repair. 
    Week 7: Phenotyping
    • Design an experiment to determine auxotrophic phenotypes.
    • Predict the outcome of multi-step experiments.
    Multiweek
    • Recognize and describe conditions necessary for growth of E. coli and S. cerevisiae.
    • Qualitatively and quantitatively analyze scientific data from scientific experiments, including bacterial and yeast transformation, agarose gel electrophoresis, extraction of plasmid DNA from bacteria, PCR, and auxotroph phenotypic analysis.
    • Communicate science to peers through maintenance of a laboratory notebook, verbal communication with group members, and writing of a formal laboratory report written in a format acceptable for journal publication.
    • Troubleshoot scientific protocols by identifying procedures that are prone to error, comparing recommended protocols to actual procedure, and using positive and negative controls to narrow the location of a potential error.
    • Communicate specific potential or actual uses of CRISPR/Cas9 in science and/or medicine.
    Alignment with Society-Generated Learning Objectives - From Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Genetics Learning Frameworks
    • Use various bioinformatics approaches to analyze macromolecular primary sequence and structure.
    • Illustrate how DNA is replicated and genes are transmitted from one generation to the next in multiple types of organisms including bacteria, eukaryotes, viruses, and retroviruses.
    • Define what a genome consists of and how the information in various genes and other sequence classes within each genome are used to store and express genetic information.
    • Explain the meaning of ploidy (haploid, diploid, aneuploid etc.) and how it relates to the number of homologues of each chromosome. 
    • Predict the effects of mutations on the activity, structure, or stability of a protein and design appropriate experiments to assess the effects of mutations.
    • Predict the growth behavior of microbes based on their growth conditions, e.g., temperature, available nutrient, aeration level, etc.
    • Discuss the benefits of specific tools of modern biotechnology that are derived from naturally occurring microbes (e.g. cloning vectors, restriction enzymes, Taq polymerase, etc.)
    • Accurately prepare and use reagents and perform experiments.
    • When presented with an observation, develop a testable and falsifiable hypothesis.
    • When provided with a hypothesis, identify the appropriate experimental observations and controllable variables.
  • Results formula questions. Shows the five questions that comprise the formula for writing a scientific Results section.
  • SNP model by David Eccles (gringer) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

    Exploration of the Human Genome by Investigation of Personalized SNPs

    Learning Objectives
    Students successfully completing this lesson will be able to:
    • Effectively use the bioinformatics databases (SNPedia, the UCSC Genome Browser, and NCBI) to explore SNPs of interest within the human genome.
    • Identify three health-related SNPs of personal interest and use the UCSC Genome Browser to define their precise chromosomal locations and determine whether they lie within a gene or are intergenic.
    • Establish a list of all genome-wide association studies correlated with a particular health-related SNP.
    • Predict which model organism would be most appropriate for conducting further research on a human disease.