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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
  • 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.
  • A photo of grizzly bears fishing in the McNeil Falls in Alaska, taken using BearCam by Lawrence Griffing.

    Authentic Ecological Inquiries Using BearCam Archives

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • conduct an authentic ecological inquiry including
      • generate a testable hypothesis based on observations,
      • design investigation with appropriate sampling selection and variables,
      • collect and analyze data following the design, and
      • interpret results and draw conclusions based on the evidence.
    • write a research report with appropriate structure and style.
    • evaluate the quality of inquiry reports using a rubric.
    • conduct peer review to evaluate and provide feedback to others' work.
    • revise the inquiry report based on peer feedback and self-assessment.
  • 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
  • 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.  
  • Structure of protein ABCB6

    Investigating the Function of a Transport Protein: Where is ABCB6 Located in Human Cells?

    Learning Objectives
    At the end of this activity students will be able to:
    • describe the use of two common research techniques for studying proteins: SDS-PAGE and immunoblot analysis.
    • determine a protein’s subcellular location based on results from: 1) immunoblotting after differential centrifugation, and 2) immunofluorescence microscopy.
    • analyze protein localization data based on the limitations of differential centrifugation and immunofluorescence microscopy.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • “The outcome of the Central Dogma is not always intuitive” Variation in gene size does not necessarily correlate with variation in protein size. Here, two related genes differ in length due to a deletion mutation that removes four nucleotides. Many students do not predict that the smaller gene, after transcription and translation, would produce a larger protein.

    Predicting and classifying effects of insertion and deletion mutations on protein coding regions

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • accurately predict effects of frameshift mutations in protein coding regions
    • conduct statistical analysis to compare expected and observed values
    • become familiar with accessing and using DNA sequence databases and analysis tools
  • 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.
  • Using Undergraduate Molecular Biology Labs to Discover Targets of miRNAs in Humans

    Learning Objectives
    • Use biological databases to generate and compare lists of predicted miR targets, and obtain the mRNA sequence of their selected candidate gene
    • Use bioinformatics tools to design and optimize primer sets for qPCR
  • Figure 2. ICB-Students come to class prepared to discuss the text
  • Two cells stained

    Bad Cell Reception? Using a cell part activity to help students appreciate cell biology, with an improved data plan and...

    Learning Objectives
    • Identify cell parts and explain their function
    • Explain how defects in a cell part can result in human disease
    • Generate thought-provoking questions that expand upon existing knowledge
    • Create a hypothesis and plan an experiment to answer a cell part question
    • Find and reference relevant cell biology journal articles
  • 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.