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  • 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.
  • Using phylogenetics to make inferences about historical biogeographic patterns of evolution.

    Building Trees: Introducing evolutionary concepts by exploring Crassulaceae phylogeny and biogeography

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Estimate phylogenetic trees using diverse data types and phylogenetic models.
    • Correctly make inferences about evolutionary history and relatedness from the tree diagrams obtained.
    • Use selected computer programs for phylogenetic analysis.
    • Use bootstrapping to assess the statistical support for a phylogeny.
    • Use phylogenetic data to construct, compare, and evaluate the role of geologic processes in shaping the historical and current geographic distributions of a group of organisms.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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)
  • 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.  
  • 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
  • photo credit John Friedlein. Author (SRB) helps a student troubleshooting RStudio in the workshop session of class.
  • 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 (
    • 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.
    • 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.