Research in the Teaching Laboratory: Comparison of 1st and 4th year projects Quinn Vega and Sandra Adams
What is a Research Based Project? • A question that does NOT have a previously determined answer. • Students have input into the question/experimental technique used. • Results can be transmitted to the wider scientific community.
How do these courses differ from traditional labs? • Focus on experimental question and pedagogy instead of justpedagogy • not learning just for the sake of learning • Lab sections don’t necessarily coincide with lecture • Generally more time consuming • Requires increased student input before, during and after lab course.
Goals • Increased student engagement (in lab and lecture) • Increased understanding of scientific research • Not individual labs (research is a continuum) • Results aren’t pre-determined • Sometimes experiments don’t work • (Definition of RE-search) • Increased laboratory skills/experimental design skills/data analysis skills • Research results • Potentially, link labs between years
BIOL 112 First Year Project • Goal of this project is to isolate, purify, and characterize a novel mycobacteriophage (virus that infects a bacterium, Mycobacterium smegmatis).
Level of Independence • Students complete a project that is built around a national experiment; • Students engage in authentic scientific research with standardized protocols; • Students do not work at the same pace as they complete the project; • Students make decisions regarding when and how to proceed to the next step.
Expected Learning Achievements • Discover new scientific information; • Engage in experimental design, data analysis and interpretation; • Apply mathematics in problem solving; • Engage in laboratory experiences in microbiology, molecular biology, electron microscopy; • Acquire a sense of ownership of a scientific problem.
Challenges of Enrolling Students • Volunteers versus required enrollment? • Expectation of work in addition to scheduled lab times; • Motivation to conduct research is essential.
Challenges of Organizing Such a Project • Additional resources (reagents and consumable supplies); • Additional time in lab; • Additional personnel? • Preparation of reagents and materials; • Prior experiences of students
Benefits • Increased motivation; • Excitement about research; • Dissemination of research findings including co-authorship on submission to genomic databases.
Benefits • Discover new scientific information; • Engage in experimental design, data analysis and interpretation; • Engage in laboratory experiences in microbiology, molecular biology, electron microscopy; • Acquire a sense of ownership of a scientific problem.
Senior Project-BIOL 435 • Students are asked to isolate and characterize a gene from a bacteriophage originally isolated in BIOL 112. Students must select the gene based on its scientific interest.
Level of Independence? • All groups perform the same experiments but not always at the same time • They don’t get to decide what to do but they get to decide, within reason, when to do it. • Students do get to decide which gene they study • They must provide arguments for their decision • Students need to decide HOW to perform the experiment (necessary controls, appropriate experimental setup, etc.)
Specific Learning Goals • Molecular biology techniques • How and why experiments are performed • Experimental Design • Controls, appropriate experimental variables • Data interpretation • Math! • Presentation of scientific results
Challenges • Monitoring numerous projects simultaneously • Allowing for groups to repeat experiments • Allowing students to adjust experiments based on project requirements • Why didn’t it work? (Remember, this is research) • Monitoring Data/Sample Collection • Fitting the project into a defined lab schedule • Difficulty expanding project beyond faculty lead course • Some students don’t like research.
Project Benefits • Interest (student and instructor) • Student understanding of research • Making connections between experiments • Potential results for dissemination • Provide opportunity for more students to experience research • Potential springboard for a masters thesis
Long Term Goals • Provide interconnected laboratory research projects (allow students to continue from year to year) • Expand program to allow for more students to participate • GA training programs • Preparation of laboratory training modules • Strengthen assessment component