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  • 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)
  • Format of a typical course meeting
  • 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.
  • 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.  
  • 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
  • ACTN3 from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/33/Protein_ACTN3_PDB_1tjt.png

    The Science Behind the ACTN3 Polymorphism

    Learning Objectives
    This article accompanies the lesson "The ACTN3 Polymorphism: Applications in Genetics and Physiology Teaching Laboratories." Learning objectives for the lesson include:
    1. Test hypotheses related to the role of ACTN3 in skeletal muscle function.
    2. Explain how polymorphic variants of the ACTN3 gene affect protein structure and function.
    3. List and explain the differences between fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers.
    4. List and explain possible roles of the ACTN3 protein in skeletal muscle function.
    5. Find and analyze relevant scientific publications about the relationship between ACTN3 genotype and muscle function.
    6. Formulate hypotheses related to the relationship between ACTN3 genotype and skeletal muscle function.
    7. Design experiments to test hypotheses about the role of ACTN3 in skeletal muscle function.
    8. Statistically analyze experimental results using relevant software.
    9. Present experimental results in writing.
  • “Phenology of a Dawn Redwood” – Images collected by students for this lesson pieced together illustrating a Metasequoia glyptostroboides changing color and dropping its leaves in the fall of 2017 on Michigan State University campus.

    Quantifying and Visualizing Campus Tree Phenology

    Learning Objectives
    The Learning Objectives of this lesson span across the entire semester.
    • Observe and collect information on phenological changes in local trees.
    • Become familiar with a database and how to work with large datasets.
    • Analyze and visualize data from the database to test their hypotheses and questions.
    • Develop a research proposal including empirically-driven questions and hypotheses.
    • Synthesize the results of their analysis in the context of plant biodiversity and local environmental conditions.
  • 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.
  • 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)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • ACTN3 from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/33/Protein_ACTN3_PDB_1tjt.png

    The ACTN3 Polymorphism: Applications in Genetics and Physiology Teaching Laboratories

    Learning Objectives
    1. Test hypotheses related to the role of ACTN3 in skeletal muscle function.
    2. Explain how polymorphic variants of the ACTN3 gene affect protein structure and function.
    3. List and explain the differences between fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers.
    4. List and explain possible roles of the ACTN3 protein in skeletal muscle function.
    5. Find and analyze relevant scientific publications about the relationship between ACTN3 genotype and muscle function.
    6. Formulate hypotheses related to the relationship between ACTN3 genotype and skeletal muscle function.
    7. Design experiments to test hypotheses about the role of ACTN3 in skeletal muscle function.
    8. Statistically analyze experimental results using relevant software.
    9. Present experimental results in writing.
  • 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.
  • Students preforming the leaky neuron activity.

    The Leaky Neuron: Understanding synaptic integration using an analogy involving leaky cups

    Learning Objectives
    Students will able to:
    • compare and contrast spatial and temporal summation in terms of the number of presynaptic events and the timing of these events
    • predict the relative contribution to reaching threshold and firing an action potential as a function of distance from the axon hillock
    • predict how the frequency of incoming presynaptic action potentials effects the success of temporal summation of resultant postsynaptic potentials
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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.