Discipline: Biological Sciences
Subcategory: STEM Science and Mathematics Education
- Virginia Union University
Co-Author(s): Vernon Ruffin
Targeted Infusion Projects awarded through the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) support the development, implementation, and study of
innovative evidence-based approaches to improve the preparation of HBCU undergraduate students. This project focuses on the Biological Sciences major at Virginia Union University (VUU) and seeks to address interrelated issues facing STEM departments at many small, liberal-arts institutions, such as: 1) limited access to meaningful research experiences for undergraduates and 2) obstacles to faculty research productivity. To address these challenges, the project will utilize a comprehensive approach to integrate research into the curriculum and bolster faculty research capacity. Herein, we describe the implementation of course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) into the Introductory Biology course(s) to provide all enrolled students access to authentic scholarly endeavors that build on the research expertise of the co-PIs. In 2016, VUU was selected as part of the 10th cohort for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomic and Evolutionary Sciences (SEA-PHAGES) program. Briefly, one section of the first year general biology course (specifically the laboratory) curriculum was augmented to include SEA-PHAGES. First-year students conducted experimental analyses to extract novel bacteriophages from environmental soil samples, and used bioinformatics tools to annotate the genomes. These efforts are in stark contrast to the traditional laboratory curriculum designed to expose enrolled students scientific concepts, yet fail to facilitate student application of theoretical content. After 1 year, the teaching and learning environment, fostered through the SEA-PHAGES program, has been evaluated and demonstrate that participating students report an increased likelihood to persist in the biological sciences. Furthermore, the scientific contributions of the faculty and students have been recognized at regional and national conferences underscoring the broader impacts of the project paradigm. It is anticipated that the implementation of CUREs will enhance the quality of STEM education at VUU, leading to the formation of a new research-intensive academic curriculum, and increase VUU’s production of STEM graduates who are competitive for graduate school and careers in biological sciences.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): National Science Foundation
Faculty Advisor: None Listed,