Fostering Student-Centered Inter-Investigator Collaborations

Return to search results | New search

Title of Abstract: Fostering Student-Centered Inter-Investigator Collaborations

Name of Author: Catherine Reinke
Author Company or Institution: Linfield College
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics, Cell Biology, Genetics
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum
Approaches: Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.), Material Development
Keywords: molecular biology, independent research, collaboration

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: In the context of extracurricular, course-based, and laboratory projects, students carried out novel research to participate in key aspects of the contemporary practice of science often absent from traditional undergraduate science curriculum, namely inter-investigator and inter-institutional collaboration. Students enrolled in the Linfield College iFOCUS program or BIOL400 Molecular Cell Biology performed 1) wet bench (in collaboration with the Reinke lab), 2) writing (in collaboration with 11 research labs at various institutions), or 3) bioinformatics exercises (in collaboration with the Genomics Education Partnership and Washington University). Student projects were designed such that students generated 1) gene mapping data, 2) testable hypotheses and tractable experimental approaches, or 3) genome annotation information, all of suitable relevance and quality to be used in ongoing academic research. The goal of these efforts was to demystify the practice of science for undergraduate students by facilitating their authentic contributions to the scientific community.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: 1) In the inaugural year of iFOCUS, a one-week camp aimed toward fostering an interdisciplinary science community, one project was designed to have students identify the genetic basis of traits and the relationship between genes, traits, and chromosomes through a bona fide gene-mapping project using Drosophila melanogaster. Students were charged with contributing to the identification of a novel gene required for microRNA-mediated gene silencing. 2) One Molecular Cell Biology (BIOL400) project was designed to have students author feasible research proposals addressing a student-generated research question that would be of interest to an active research laboratory. Students were encouraged to research and/or contact relevant investigators as they developed their proposals. Students were charged with crafting their research proposal through an iterative process of reading, oral presentations, and writing, and guided peer and instructor review of oral presentations and written drafts. 3) The Genomics Education Partnership (GEP) facilitates undergraduate participation in authentic genomics research through the student-led annotation of genes on the Dot chromosome of various Drosophila species, to better understand the evolution of this unique genomic region. BIOL400 laboratory students claimed a GEP project and annotated a novel sequence of genomic DNA. Subsequently, students generated a yeast genomic library and analyzed representative clones via enzyme digest, DNA sequencing, and BLAST to identify a gene required for normal organelle morphology by complementation of a temperature-sensitive phenotype in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Taken together, these complementary laboratory modules required students to generate genome annotation data de novo and then use similar extant genome annotation data to address an authentic cell biological research question.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: Thus far, student participation in two of three projects has furthered subsequent research by active laboratories as measured by the incorporation of student-generated information into ongoing projects. Students consequently have a heightened sense of ownership and thus a higher level of commitment to their work. Students were provided with the opportunity to provide evaluations (both institutionally standardized evaluations and instructor-authored evaluations) to allow for the evaluation of the project's ability to achieve the desired learning outcomes. For all projects, student learning gains were measured by pre- and post-project assessment, indicating attainment of learning objectives.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: 1) Interested students (8/10) returned once the semester began to determine which genomic region contained the mutation of interest based on their data collection and complementation analysis. In addition, data generated by iFOCUS students directed the course of the independent research projects for two fourth-year students in Fall ‘12, and 4/10 iFOCUS students subsequently elected to enroll in BIOL220 Research Methods in Spring ‘13, to carry out further independent research on this topic. 2) Two students spontaneously demonstrated palpable investment in their proposals, further revising or summarizing their work after the course for communication with investigators at other institutions, achieving the goal of inter-investigator and inter-institutional scientific collaboration. 3) Additional Linfield College student TAs and faculty members have committed to or are exploring participation in the GEP. Subsequent students and researchers will use student-generated data and reagents in Spring ‘13, achieving the goal of inter-investigator and inter-institutional scientific collaboration.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: Students are often surprised by the fact that they can contribute directly to ongoing research even at the undergraduate level. Descriptions of the various projects thus needed to include direct examples of how student work contributes to the whole and furthers the overall project.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: 1) Formal and informal student and faculty reviews of iFOCUS were provided to faculty and administrators to generate support for future iterations of iFOCUS. 2) Peer review of final oral presentations of research proposals led to recommendations for funding. In addition, two students spontaneously demonstrated palpable investment in their proposals, further revising or summarizing their work after the course for communication with investigators at other institutions, achieving the goal of inter-investigator and inter-institutional scientific collaboration. 3) Data analyzed will be submitted to the Genomics Education Partnership.

Acknowledgements: Tom Hellie; presenident of Linfield College, Susan Agre-Kippenhan, Dean of Faculty, and the members of the Linfield College Biology Department.