Teaching research skills through collaborative research projects in developmental biology

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  • them reading skills and presentation exercises designed to teachcritical thinking skills. Initial assessments of the course haveindicated an increase in critical thinking skills, an improved abilityto read the primary literature, and a greater understanding ofexperimental methods, design and developmental concepts.

    doi:10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.05.098

    Program/Abstract # 80Eukaryon: The use of an undergraduate scholarship journalto strengthen inquiry-based pedagogy and a community ofundergraduate scholarsPliny A. Smith, Shaun Davis, Michael Fiske, Shubhik DebBurmanBiology Department, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, IL, USA

    Undergraduate research and inquiry-based pedagogyare becomingincreasingly crucial components in colleges and university curricula inthe United States. Providing undergraduates the opportunity topublish their scholarship serves as a pedagogical tool to increasescientific literacy and motivation for scientific careers. Spurred by anNSF-CCLI grant in 2004, the Lake Forest College Biology Departmentaccordingly developed a peer-reviewed undergraduate researchjournal of life science scholarship, Eukaryon (http://www.lakeforest.edu/eukaryon). In each annual issue, Eukaryon publishes scholarshipin any sub-discipline of the life sciences that students have producedwithin the department's research-rich undergraduate classrooms andfaculty labs. Here, we detail three aspects of the journal's develop-ment: 1) how it is exclusively governed, published, and financed byundergraduates; 2) how the journal establishes and improves on itscontent and format; and 3) specific strategies that maintain publica-tion selectivity and integrate the journalwith student coursework andfacultystudent collaborative scholarship. Finally, we will discuss howassessment of our journal's initial impact on a department's curricu-lum and its community of student scholars is shaping future directionsfor journal growth and curricular outcome. We encourage theadaptation and implementation of such journals at undergraduateinstitutions that seek to further strengthen their community ofstudents as scholars and their inquiry-based pedagogy.

    doi:10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.05.099

    Program/Abstract # 81A semester-long project related to the evolution of developmentalmechanisms: Exploring the benefits for undergraduate studentsat a small liberal arts institutionLaura RomanoDepartment of Biology, Denison University, Granville, OH, USA

    It is important to provide undergraduate students with researchexperiences so that they obtain a deeper understanding of material aswell as acquire problem-solving skills that are essential for any career.However, this can be difficult to achieve at a small liberal artsinstitution where time and resources are limited. One option is todesign a course with a lab component in which students conduct asemester-long project with the potential to share their results withthe scientific community. I designed an interdisciplinary course titledEvolutionary Developmental Biology in which students cloned genesfrom the white urchin, Lytechinus variegatus. All of the assigned genesare known to be essential for development of the larval skeleton inthe purple urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. It remains to be seenif their functions are conserved in other species of echinoderms. Theproject involved a variety of computer and lab-based skills. Itculminated with the students incorporating their DNA sequences

    into phylogenetic trees that they prepared at the beginning of thesemester. Students also wrote review articles about their assignedgenes to gain a better appreciation for the significance of the project.Statistical analysis of results obtained from pre and post-testsrevealed that the students had a better understanding of basicbiological concepts by the end of the semester. Moreover, thestudents gained confidence in a variety of skills that are essentialfor conducting research in the field of developmental biology.

    doi:10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.05.100

    Program/Abstract # 82Assaying for goosecoid gene expression in LiCl-treated zebrafishembryos in an undergraduate laboratoryMichelle L. McWhorterDepartment of Biology, Wittenberg University, Springfield,OH 45501, USA

    Differential gene expression can be a difficult concept for manyundergraduates to understand and master. In order to facilitate anunderstanding of this concept, a laboratory experiment was designedto allow students to observe how gene expression of goosecoid (gsc)can change based on the activity of intracellular signaling proteins.Gscis a gene expressed in the organizer during gastrulation of zebrafishand aids in specifying the dorsal axis. It has also previously been shownthat LiCl treatment expands the expression region of gsc and dorsalizesthe embryo by inhibiting glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3), animportant inhibitor of b-catenin signaling. Zebrafish embryos weretreated with 0.3M LiCl for 10min at 3hpf and later fixed at 8hpf(gastrulation stage). Students then performed an in situ hybridizationfor gsc on untreated and LiCl-treated zebrafish embryos at 8hpf.Students observed a greatly-expanded area of gsc gene expression inthe LiCl-treated embryos compared to untreated embryos. Simulta-neously with the laboratory experiments, students were also learningabout the role of b-catenin signaling and its transcriptional activationof dorsal-specific genes, such as siamoiswhich ultimately upregulatesgsc expression. The laboratoryexperiment examining the expression ofgsc in untreated and LiCl-treated embryos allowed for the students toobserve, first-hand, a very important principle in developmentalbiology, differential gene expression. They were able to successfullyunderstand WHY the expression of gsc could change based on theactivity of GSK-3 (and ultimately b-catenin).

    doi:10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.05.101

    Program/Abstract # 83Teaching research skills through collaborative research projects indevelopmental biologyClara S. MooreBiology Department, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA, USA

    Students learn many scientific research skills in undergraduatebiology courses, especially those with laboratory components.Although elements of experimental design, data collection andanalysis are possible with short experimental projects during thecourse of a semester, the responsibility for all aspects of the projectand independent thought on the part of the students are oftenlacking. An upper level elective course that allows student groups todesign and carry out projects over a greater time span promotesapplication of multiple skill sets and independent original research.Introduction to multiple model organisms, experimental design,microscopy and imaging, data collection, and lab notebook main-tenance are integrated early in the curriculum through single week

    Abstracts / Developmental Biology 331 (2009) 414416 415

  • experimentation. For success in more large-scale student-designedprojects, critical elements include providing adequate guidance andtime for literature review, initial proposals and project selection,formal written proposals including materials lists, and six weeks forexperimentation and analysis. Final presentations in poster formatand assessment from students convey the high level of cooperativecontribution and depth of understanding required and attained byundergraduates in the process of completing the collaborativedevelopmental biology projects.

    doi:10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.05.102

    Program/Abstract # 84Factors affecting performance in an introductory genetics courseMary K. MontgomeryBiology Department, Macalester College, St. Paul, MN, USA

    For several years, we have witnessed a distinct trend in ourintroductory level genetics and cell biology courses in which studentperformance as measured on exams tends to map as a bimodal,rather than normal, distribution. The bimodal distribution hastypically been attributed to differences in highschool preparation,as some students will have had only a single highschool generalbiology course whereas other students will have taken additionaladvanced courses, such as molecular genetics. It would seem that thelatter group of students would be at a distinct advantage in anintroductory genetics course. However, students with the advancedtraining may have more problems with misconceptions or may notstudy as hard as students who are essentially learning the materialfor the first time. To begin to identify significant factors affectingcourse performance, data are being collected from students enrolledin my introductory Genetics course, both from Fall 2008 (20students) and Spring 2009 (50 students). Data collection and analysisare being conducted by the students enrolled in a Statistical Modelingcourse. Factors we are considering include SAT scores; highschoolpreparation; previous or coenrollment in other courses withinBiology, Chemistry, and a related laboratory course; study habits

    (several factors such as time devoted to coursework outside class, useof learning objectives, group study); learning styles(e.g. VARK); andmotivation for taking/doing well in course (Bio major, minor; pre-med; science distribution). The study is subject to appropriate reviewand student participation is voluntary. Results will be presented atthe meeting.

    doi:10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.05.103

    Program/Abstract # 85Why peer discussion improves student performance on in-classconcept questionsMichelle K. Smitha,b, William B. Wooda,b, Wendy K. Adamsa,c,Carl E. Wiemana,d, Jennifer K. Knighta,b, Nancy Guildb, Tin Tin SubaScience Education Initiative, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder CO, USAbDepartment of MCD Biology, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder CO, USAcDepartment of Physics, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USAdDepartment of Physics, Univ. of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

    Personal response systems or clickers are promoted as a means toincrease student learning in large undergraduate science courses.When students answer a clicker question individually, discuss it withtheir neighbors, and then re-vote on the same question, thepercentage of correct answers typically increases. This outcome couldresult from gains in understanding during discussion, or simply frompeer influence of knowledgeable students on their neighbors. Todistinguish between these alternatives in an undergraduate geneticscourse, we followed the above exercise with a second, very similar(isomorphic) question on the same concept that students answeredindividually. Our results indicate clearly that peer discussionenhances understanding, even when none of the students in adiscussion group originally knows the correct answer. A report of thiswork has been published (Science 323: 122-124, 2009). Funded bythe University of Colorado Science Education Initiative.

    doi:10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.05.104

    Abstracts / Developmental Biology 331 (2009) 414416416

    Outline placeholderEukaryon: The use of an undergraduate scholarship journal to strengthen inquiry-based pedagogy.....A semester-long project related to the evolution of developmental mechanisms: Exploring the ben.....Assaying for goosecoid gene expression in LiCl-treated zebrafish embryos in an undergraduate la.....Teaching research skills through collaborative research projects in developmental biologyFactors affecting performance in an introductory genetics courseWhy peer discussion improves student performance on in-class concept questions