Biology in Practice: Moving Towards a Research-based Major

Sarah Elgin, Washington University in St. Louis; Shan Hays, Western Colorado University; Vida Mingo, Columbia College (SC); Christopher Shaffer, Washington University in St. Louis; Jason Williams, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory


This program centers on teaching biology through research experiences and practical examples of current issues. We propose alternative implementations, suggestions and insights for achieving a research-centered biology major at institutions of higher learning outside the context of a Research I university. A critical component of any implementation will be a freshman research lab that not only provides the typical “overview” of the sub-disciplines within biology but does so by engaging teams of students in research (for example, a field study utilizing genomic analysis of student-selected organisms (Hyman et al., 2019, CourseSource. ). On a practical level, this can be accomplished by a stand-alone course or by utilizing the lab of existing freshman courses. Within this research-centered major, all following upper-level labs would similarly focus on a research project, not only to help students develop their foundational knowledge, habits of mind, and skills using needed tools for investigation, but also to enable them to make meaningful contributions to the science literature through their research. Upper level research experiences can be developed within the labs of existing courses (e.g. biochemistry, ecology, etc.) or can be centered around the research interests of faculty, building vertically integrated student teams that persist over the sophomore to senior years. Both approaches develop peer-instruction opportunities and both culminate in team-based “capstone” projects and/or a senior thesis. All students participate in regularly scheduled (annual or semester) symposia to communicate their work to other students and faculty and to allow summative assessment of their progress towards the learning goals. In addition, a well-designed program specifies curriculum milestones that explicitly develop humanistic and meta knowledge, including written and oral communication skills. The humanistic knowledge milestones emphasize the importance of students forming their own questions in ways that are relevant to themselves, their cultures, and their communities. Meta knowledge milestones promote the development of scientific efficacy and independent critical reasoning, challenging students to reflect on their work, seek out and incorporate expertise, and value equity and inclusion.

Goals of the Program

A central feature is a two-semester freshman-level course that provides a strong foundation for a full biology program that vertically integrates Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) at all levels, a long-standing goal of the 2011 report from AAAS, “Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education,” that called for new instructional practices to be widely implemented. This program is built on the mantra that “the biology we teach should reflect the biology we practice” (Ledbetter, 2012, J Undergrad Neurosci Educ Fall 2012;11(1):A22-6.) Here, we are expanding on the core competencies and instructional practices recommended in Vision and Change to integrate humanistic, meta knowledge, and foundational knowledge into course-based undergraduate research experiences. The final goal is to create a student-centered, research driven pedagogy model where students not only gain practical knowledge of the practice of science and develop an understanding of the foundational knowledge of science, but also come to understand their own place within a community of practice where their contributions are communicated, recognized and appreciated.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students develop scientific self-efficacy and independence to move forward in analyzing questions of interest using scientific approaches.
  • Students can carry out the process of science, including the generation of hypotheses by refining broad questions into targeted questions both requiring and accessible to data acquisition; the development and execution of experiments with appropriate controls; and the analysis of data using appropriate tools in the process of coming to a defensible conclusion.
  • Students can appropriately use software, databases, and visualization to explore their data and communicate their findings.
  • Students can communicate to diverse audiences, both scientific and community-based, in written and oral formats.
  • Students learn to shape their questions and approaches to problem solving through an equitable and inclusive understanding of local, regional, and global interests.

Assessing Program Outcomes

Assessing the impact of a research-centered biology major will require a long-term effort. While one can see an impact on the participation in senior capstone experiences, whether a research-based thesis, investigative team effort, or the like, it will take several years to see impacts on factors like recruitment, retention, and graduation rates. Appropriate assessments for achievement of four-year learning goals will need to be developed, but can follow from assessments of student learning and student attitudes carried out each semester.

While our learning outcomes delineate the goals for the program as a whole, the need for formative evaluation during each semester should not be neglected. Students need feedback, throughout the semester, to catch misconceptions and/or sloppy work early in the process, and to feel that they are “on the right track” to meet their own personal goals in a given course. In this context, we advocate that all Research Lab Courses be given for a letter grade, not pass/fail, to provide more nuanced information on student effort; this will benefit both the student and the reviewer of student success.

There are multiple ways to provide formative assessment outlined below. Some of these suggestions are suitable for individual responses, while others are suitable for a group lab report. We avoid timed assessments, as these create barriers for certain subgroups of students. We aim for assessments that are “open book” and allow or encourage the student to utilize multiple resources, including available literature and data bases and discussion with peers and experts, but require students to exercise their own analytical skills. In many cases the same assessment can be done iteratively (e.g. have students rewrite and resubmit a written assignment), providing students opportunities to edit and critique their own (or other students’) presentation and/or scientific writing.

  1. Mastery of new techniques: request a written description of the process, of the basic principles underlying the tool (e.g., the algorithm, the optics etc.), of the results from a “problem set” that walks through or simulates the process, of the results of a trial run with a known sample (give each student a different sample), or of first results with experimental material, assessing consistency of results.
  2. Mastery of a new protocol: require a written report of the outcomes of the first experiment, including internal checks on the consistency of the data; this might include an oral presentation for class critique and feedback. Stress clarity of exposition and identification of problems rather than quality of results at this stage.
  3. Consideration of alternatives: class discussion on what could go wrong and/or the limits of the experimental design, considering alternative approaches that may be appropriate; a one-page written summary of important points could be requested.
  4. Lab notebook: students should be given clear expectations for entries into their lab notebook, with checks (random/sporadic or scheduled), carried out.
  5. Lab meetings: each student comes prepared with 3-4 PPT slides to discuss an aspect of the work that is troublesome for her/him – internal inconsistency, no clear resolution, etc. – for trouble-shooting and input by a larger group of students. (For larger classes, this can work well by forming smaller break-out sessions with ~5 team presentations, with all team members and a TA/faculty member as responders).
  6. Reading and analysis of the original or popular literature: there are many variations on how to divide up the work for oral presentation. Require a written response delineating the “big idea” and suggesting the next experiment.
  7. Experimental design: as problems are encountered, have a group discuss these, brain-storming possible solutions. Challenge students to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the suggestions. How can we arrive at an internally consistent data set? A short written report can be requested.
  8. Peer review of the written assignments can help both the author and the reviewer, as well as decreasing the load for faculty and teaching assistants.

Summative assessment for a given course will include a written and/or oral report by the student/team on their work for the semester, potentially presented as a poster. Summative assessment for the student in this major will include a senior thesis or equivalent project report plus participation in an undergraduate research symposium using poster or oral presentation.

For an example of a specific rubric see Appendix 4 from Shapiro et al, JOURNAL OF MICROBIOLOGY & BIOLOGY EDUCATION, December 2015, p. 186-197.

Demonstrative Program Product

Program Catalog Descriptions:

Research-Oriented Biology Major Track

The courses of this program are Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) in which students experience the process of scientific discovery as contributing members of research teams. Each CURE has a different research focus, so the collection of courses in toto covers the breadth of biology subjects, reflecting expertise of departmental faculty members. The courses iteratively build on one another over the four-year program to train the students in the process of science and to develop the students’ proficiency and expertise in:

  1. understanding the ethical responsibilities of scientists in their approach to problem solving, shaped by an equitable and inclusive understanding of local, regional, and global interests;
  2. understanding the ethical responsibilities of scientists in maintaining integrity of data and using data to support inferences/conclusions;
  3. asking meaningful scientific questions;
  4. developing hypotheses;
  5. designing experiments to test the hypotheses;
  6. analyzing data quantitatively and computationally using bioinformatics tools or mathematical modeling software to visualize, interpret, expand, or refine their data sets;
  7. documenting research accomplishments in lab notebooks and by synthesizing results into oral presentations and written reports;
  8. being mindful of the scientific community, including reading the scientific literature, attending seminars and meetings (e.g. undergraduate research symposium and, where possible, local meetings), and talking with colleagues; and
  9. communicating research ideas to diverse audiences, both scientific and community-based.

Learning Outcomes Knowledge Matrix

The goal of this program is to engage students in the process of science through actively engaging them in research as early as possible and throughout the curriculum. The matrix below illustrates how learning outcomes map to foundational, meta, and humanistic knowledge. These outcomes can be paired with assessments and then mapped to specific activities and topics.

Learning Outcome Foundational Knowledge Humanistic Knowledge Meta Knowledge
Students develop the scientific self-efficacy and independence to move forward in analyzing questions of interest using scientific approaches. Students develop technical competence in using scientific protocols and methodology and an awareness of the supporting scientific literature. Students see themselves as scientists. Students discern how scientific approaches can be applied to problems relevant to them and their communities. They understand the role of collaboration in science and have strategies to avoid the potential pitfalls of bias, exclusion, and inequity.  Students understand the need to be self-directed in developing new solutions and hypotheses and have strategies for seeking broader inputs and overcoming obstacles.
Students can carry out the process of science, including the generation of hypotheses by refining broad questions into targeted questions both requiring and accessible to data acquisition; the development and execution of experiments with appropriate controls; and the analysis of data using appropriate tool in the process of coming to a defensible conclusion. Students understand the process of data collection and reporting. Students understand scientific terminology and the proper use of experimental apparatus to collect data. Students have an appreciation of the evidence needed to support their hypotheses. Students identify ethical obligations when developing experimental design (e.g. stakeholders, ownership). They understand how scientific communities develop ethical protocols. They apply ethical practice in all aspects of their works and understand the importance of maintaining the integrity of data. Students develop judgement skills needed to choose and apply protocols and methodologies. They understand the need to look broadly for applicable resources, and seek additional expertise and collaboration as needed, recognizing the power of dialogue. Through reflection they can refine their approaches when they encounter failures (troubleshooting).
Students can appropriately use software, databases, and visualization to explore their data and communicate their results. Students have competence in working with the computational methods of modern biology and can apply appropriate statistics to determine both the consistency of data and test the sensitivity of the system. Students will vary in the abilities but are guided in moving past the “phobia” of integrating mathematics, statistics, and computation into their work. Students understand competency not as needing to acquire every ability, but in being able to solve the most commonly encountered challenges and in being able to talk with experts in the field.
Students can communicate to diverse audiences, scientific or community-based, in written and oral formats. Students understand the necessity of writing and oral presentation skills both to communicate results and to be considered for funding (i.e. communicate with scientific peers) AND to communicate with the public, which ultimately funds their research (i.e. NIH, NSF). Students see themselves as communicators for science and have developed communication styles which help them to relate to their own community. Students strive to understand the historical context of the audiences they communicate and collaborate with. Students are able to communicate their science with mutual respect for their values and their audience’s values. Students appreciate the diversity of communities and life experiences that inform the audiences they communicate science to. They can identify with the concerns and contexts of different communities and develop appropriate strategies for communication.
Students learn to shape their questions and approaches to problem solving through an equitable and inclusive understanding of local, regional, and global interests. Students are able to develop their own research topics in a way and at a scale that matches their interests, abilities, and resources. Students view science as an activity that is a part of rather than divorced from personal and community concerns. Students reflect on how the knowledge and concerns of others inform their choice of approaches, their use of methods, and their communication of conclusions.


  • Aligning with institutional mission/s and context/s:
    • Institution-specific: research experiences can be developed within the courses faculty currently teach, or be centered around faculty research interests. In all cases, one will want to build on the institutional mission, current resources and strengths, and faculty interests.
  • Engaging college/university leadership and faculty buy-in:
    • Start dialogue with other faculty to build a community (apply for a communications grant).
    • Develop programmatic/administrative assessments to address concerns at that level (recruitment, retention in STEM, retention to graduation) and/or convince leadership by using literature: build the argument so colleagues can use the material in their attempts to implement in different departments or at different institutions.
    • Overcoming inertia: we need to provide sufficient incentives for faculty to adopt this approach, such that they are willing to modify lab courses that they have developed and used for many years to include a research component- citing literature, providing examples, would be a good place to start here.
    • The real issue is instructional time: we need to convince faculty that given computer-based resources we can shift to less lecture and more lab. (Note that research will be part of the letter-grade course, so it will provide (full?) teaching credit.)
  • Enlisting co-designers, partners, and stakeholders among the faculty, staff and potentially the students and alumni of the home department and other units:
    • Start dialogue with other faculty to build a community (apply for a communication grant).
  • Resources and structures including funding, policies:
    • The more we can provide examples of concrete, implementable course structures, the easier it will be for faculty to implement this program (perhaps initially as alternative courses; for example, research as an alternative to standard freshman lab) without requiring large amounts of supplemental time or money to develop the courses themselves
    • Potential issues:
      • Will lab costs be greater using this approach? Perhaps, but this is the reason that we are stressing computer/ bioinformatics or field work approaches. There still could be an access issue for students that don’t have (good enough) computers. Space will still be necessary for students to do work on-campus.
      • Space constraints? If the school has space for labs normally, there should be space for the lab work for these courses, but it will involve repurposing for these courses, with the possibility of time being involved to switch out lab materials between courses. “Research space” might also be used, but this might not exist to much of an extent (as actual space or as space available to a substantial number of undergrads).
      • Prepping for courses: Initial investment of time will be the biggest hurdle and may require investment by the school (release time) or a support network of faculty who already have implemented at their schools. Prepping for research-focused labs can be time-consuming on a daily basis, and this will need to be addressed in some manner. To the extent possible, prepping should be a student activity.
  • Exploring potential and planning for scaling internally and externally:
    • Internal scaling: initially, it would be easiest for schools to fit these courses into their existing lab structures in terms of space and scheduling. This assumes that every student takes eight semesters/12 quarters of biology labs over their time at school. If this is not true, then a school would need to start with some gaps in the curriculum and then scale up to provide a lab for every student every semester. If faculty and administration perceive that the existing courses are working well, it is more likely that resources would be made available for such scaling. Otherwise, internal scaling might involve generating more courses with smaller enrollments. Whether or not this is possible depends on the institution and a myriad of groups competing for resources and FTE. Alternatively, research projects that readily adapt to participation by large numbers of students should be considered.
    • External scaling / broad communication of ideas:
      • First publish in figshare and then create a meeting report for Life Science Education. Seek partners for LSE-RCN – there are several groups interested in teaching through CUREs.
      • Consider funding mechanisms such as the NSF RCN-UBE); this is appropriate for programs that need a long-term approach (2-3 years) or a group of schools that want to work together. This could be a useful approach for building and maintaining the dialogue we have started here.

The major and the first research-centered biology course for "Biology in Practice"

Sarah Elgin, Washington University in St. Louis; Shan Hays, Western Colorado University; Vida Mingo, Columbia College (SC); Christopher Shaffer, Washington University in St. Louis; Jason Williams, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory


We envision a progression for implementation of the core concepts and courses described, adapted to the circumstances / resources and current curriculum of a given institution. We advocate for adoption of the freshman research lab (Bio 101) as a first step, with subsequent development of the upper level program that builds on the freshman experience, scaffolding from one year to the next. Organization of upper level research experiences can be through the laboratories of existing courses, adapted to include research, or through development of multi-year project courses with vertical integration that allows senior students to mentor sophomores/juniors.

Design Philosophy

Who is our audience (institutional context)

We are developing our work with the following institutional characteristics in mind:

  • A campus of 5K-10K undergraduates (e.g. a large state college; four-year curriculum). A plan that works in this setting can most likely be readily adapted to smaller schools. Community colleges (2-year curriculum) generally aim to articulate with state colleges, so they will need to be able to use the strategies discussed here.
  • Primarily undergraduate institutions (may have some MA students, but not a research university). R1 universities have many more resources and mechanisms for engaging students in research; nonetheless, their students would benefit from the freshman course described here.
  • Freshman biology major entry class that has 3 hrs per week large lecture, 3 hrs per week lab (~ 24 students per lab section).
  • A group of biology faculty (may be in a “Natural Sciences” department); majority have PhD.
  • Students are often focused on job-readiness, while others plan to pursue graduate school or professional credentials; school may offer articulations/workforce certifications.

Our goal is to encourage us all to provide research-based biology education for a broad and diverse population of students across the country.

How will this degree program/certificate address the fundamental values and anchors:

  • Fundamental values/anchors for foundational knowledge: how this program will address them, starting in the freshman year course and building through the the rest of the program:
    • Exposure to the breadth of biology: Lectures will provide examples of questions of interest that students might pursue and then address protocols, techniques, and trouble-shooting, based on “need to know” for the lab investigation, with the aim of familiarizing students with the “tools of the trade.” For example, field work–> organismal collection and investigation –> molecular characterization (bar coding).
    • Thinking about how to ask questions: broad possibilities –> measurable variables, incremental knowledge, testable questions.
    • Acquiring background information to build on prior investigations.
    • Keeping a good lab notebook, recording data, and establishing measures of error.
    • Acknowledging the interdisciplinary nature of habitats, organisms, cells, and molecules. For example, the chemistry of a pond (pH, salinity etc.), the corresponding physiology of pond inhabitants, including cell types and diversity, and and the nature of intermolecular interactions between molecules in these organisms’ cells.
    • Quantitative reasoning in analysis of data (visualization and statistics).
    • Writing (including illustrating and supporting) final results and conclusions.
  • Fundamental values/anchors for meta knowledge and how this program will address them:
    • Peer instruction is a valuable component that rounds out the learning experience and improves communication skills. It will be integral to most courses in this major.
    • Background reading both of popular materials (e.g. Scientific American) and the scientific literature can introduce students to the thinking of other scientists.
    • Problem solving and critical thinking are an inherent part of a scientific investigation.
    • Science communication is a valued part of instruction. Students need to explain their design, their actions, and their results using their own words.
    • A final presentation, either oral or written, for a general or scientific audience, will be an integral part of every course.
  • Fundamental values/anchors for humanistic knowledge and how this program will address them:
    • Students learn best when they can shape their own questions. While overarching research aims will frequently be defined by the faculty, we aim to help students place their scientific work in the context of their interests and their understanding of science and its place in society.
    • Student questions often relate to problems relevant to their community and society as a whole. We aim to help them place their scientific work in cultural and global context.
    • Research projects often depend on teamwork, either to provide sufficient hands or to provide the breadth of expertise needed, so a team-based approach will be used frequently, as designed by the faculty.
  • Practical considerations 
    • Peer instruction helps makes this program sustainable.
    • Use of computational methods is a low-cost on-ramp to research experience.

Courses and Sequencing

Entry: the freshman year research lab

  1. Bio 101: Research-Integrated Introduction to Biology. This course provides foundational knowledge on biology research principles and applied practices (somewhat guided inquiry with defined tools and workflow – there are lots of choice as to subject matter). An example is the freshman lab at James Madison University developed by Ray Enke, in which students survey an ecological system, identify an organism of interest, and investigate that organism, culminating in bar-code identification, thus familiarizing themselves with ecology, organismal biology, and molecular genetics. Here we develop this option as a full course with lecture plus lab (8/hr per week) in the fall semester, with a follow-on research lab (3-4 hr/wk) that can be used in conjunction with different lecture options (Option A). Other examples include SEA-PHAGES, developed by Graham Hatfull, involving microbiology and genomics (Option B; Hanauer et al. 2019 See Indorf et al, CBE—Life Sciences Education – 18:ar38, 1–15, Fall 2019 for many examples of freshman CUREs.

Option A: Catalog Course Description

The goals of this course are to introduce you to the breadth of biology and to introduce you to research in this discipline. We begin with some ecology field work in Forest Park, progress to characterization of your chosen organism (a plant, fungus, or insect), and end by using DNA sequencing (bar-coding) to identify and characterize that organism. Lectures will provide the background needed to look at life from population/ecology, whole organism, and cell/molecular perspectives. The course introduces principles of experimental design, the tools we will use, and the societal context for the investigations we will undertake. Options to join a team or design your own research project. MW or TuTh, 1pm – 5 pm (2 hr lecture/6 hr lab per week), plus occasional optional guest lectures and discussions (live-streamed and recorded). Letter grade; no audits. Open to all students, whether prospective science majors or not. Freshmen or first-semester transfer students only. No prerequisites.

Students who take Bio 101 in the fall are encouraged to enroll in Bio 102 in the spring. Bio 102 encompasses the application of biology research principles through student-driven projects. Projects emerge from Bio 101 activities; students may continue and expand existing projects or develop new ones, using primarily the same tools, but incorporating additional approaches as negotiated with the lab instructor. One 3-hr lab period per week plus occasional optional guest lectures and discussions (live-streamed and recorded). Letter grade; no audits. Prerequisite: Bio 101. May be substituted for the lab section of Bio XXX.

 Option B: Catalog Course Description for Phage Hunters (local adaptation):

This year-long course on phage gives students a broad overview of biology including genetics, evolution, biochemistry, cell biology, and ecology, with a focus on cellular structures and mechanisms of biological macromolecular processes. Considerations for human health are woven in throughout the year. The laboratory component will meet 4 hours per week and engages students in a national research program to discover novel viruses from the environment, study their genomic makeup, and undertake detailed investigations into the function and properties of specific genes. The lab will introduce students to both experimental methodologies as well as diverse computational methods of analysis, giving students insights into the ways in which biological molecules combine and function to create living systems. Lecture MWF noon-1, Lab TTh 1-3. Letter grade; no audits. Open to all students, whether prospective science majors or not. No prerequisites.

Bio 205 Introductory Science Research Skills

A one-semester course to provide transfer students, or advanced students who wish to switch into the Biology major, the opportunity to develop the skills continuing students developed in the freshman-level lab courses. Course description similar to Bio 101. Prerequisite: sophomore-level standing

Upper level research courses:

 Bio 201, 301, 401: Advanced Research Lab

There are many ways that research experiences can be integrated into the upper level curriculum. We illustrate some of these here. In all cases the course will be given for a letter grade, ensuring full faculty credit. Participation in a prescribed number of upper level lab courses (or equivalent individual mentored lab experiences) will be a required part of the major. In all cases it is highly desirable that the investigation have significance beyond the classroom, either to the scientific community or to the local community, and that it result ultimately in publication – a paper in the scientific literature (likely reporting several years work), a report to a community body, or a series of microPublications, which can be smaller units (e.g., annotation of one gene in a newly sequenced species).

Option A: All upper-level courses that currently use a lab along with lecture introduce a research component into that lab, creating a CURE (Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience). The research project will, in many cases, take up all available lab time, at 3 hr/wk, but might be concentrated into the last half of the semester. Alternatively, the format could be switched to 2 hr lecture and 6 hr lab/wk. The lab topic should reflect the research interests of the faculty member teaching the course.

Option B: Upper level research lab courses are split away from the lecture courses. Lecture classes pay attention to the research process through discussion of ground-breaking experiments in the field, reflection on the original literature, etc. Lab courses meet 6-8 hr/wk, creating opportunities for more in-depth work using wet bench, field resources, online data resources, or some combination of these.

For both options above, the degree of student choice in experimental design will vary with the topic, and may be limited by the equipment available. To the degree possible, the overall project will be designed so that each student (or team) has ownership of their piece. For example, a biochemistry lab centered on protein purification and characterization might examine the same enzyme isolated from different sources; determine the enzyme activity under a variety of conditions; or look at the impact of specific mutations that the students have designed. A lab in neurobiology that depends on fairly sophisticated equipment (e.g. intracellular recording) might coach students through an initial experiment and then invite them to design an experiment changing one or two variables, defending their choice and predicting outcomes. A lab in vertebrate anatomy might investigate variation in structural parameters or be coupled with physiology to investigate structure-function relationships. Significant investigations in genomics and ecology can be done entirely online, using data already available.

Option C: Upper level research lab courses are distinct from the rest of the curriculum, are “vertically integrated,” and are organized around the research interests of each faculty member with relevance to a current scientific question or a community need (e.g. citizen science; SENCER- National Center for Science & Civic Engagement, A team of students is engaged with the faculty mentor guiding each project and students are encouraged to be a member of that team for three years. Thus, seniors can guide the initial efforts of sophomores, creating a learning continuum that supports the faculty efforts and provides the more experienced students with opportunities to improve their skills in communications, team management, etc; course credit increases with the experience level of the student. This approach has been particularly successful in engineering, bio tech and other entrepreneurial settings (see

Option D: This course is intended to engage sophomore/junior/senior students in research. Students will be exposed to many of the practical aspects of original research*. Working in a collaborative research team with a faculty mentor, students will develop a mock grant proposal that will include hypothesis generation, experimental design, data analysis, and visualization***. Students are expected to integrate primary literature as they build their mock grant proposal**. They will go through a peer review process with other research students to enhance their written and oral science communication skills**. Bench research will begin fall semester and continue into the spring with options for subsequent year participation. At the end of the research experience, students will give an oral presentation (poster or talk) in a research symposium for undergraduates in the Spring. This will be similar in many ways to the experience of a first-year graduate/pre-professional student*.

The selection of a topic will include a partnership between students and the research mentor based on faculty expertise. Students are encouraged to include areas of research that are impactful to their community (local, regional or national/global). Examples include cultural, ethical, and/or social questions in public health, such as diabetes in Native Americans and cystic fibrosis in individuals of Irish descent; understanding the molecular mechanisms of Anopheles mosquito’s infection in malaria; other genomics explorations; and questions in organismal biology. The course will require students to incorporate foundational, humanistic and meta-knowledge integration into the research experience.

Prerequisite: Bio 101 and 102/(103) OR Corequisite: Bio 205

References: * from=Lance Barton- Cancer Biology- Austin College (syllabus); **=Vida Mingo’s Genetics course; ***Course Source- Mock Grant

Other Requirements 

  1. Requirement: Statistics and Experimental Design
  2. Requirement: A computer programming course – visualization of data (e.g. introduction to R, Python, etc.)
  3. Requirement: Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues in Research (This might be paired with Bio 102.)
  4. Requirement: Scientific Communication (Writing, Oral Presentation, and Department Symposium). (Alternatively, this could be integrated into one or more of the research courses or provided as an option in any of several research courses. In any event, the experience must include multiple opportunities to critique the writing of peers on the same assignment, receive critiques from peers and faculty, and rewrite once or twice for final submission.
  5. The Department will set its own requirements for the number and type of upper level Biology courses to be taken for the major. These should be organized such that the student has exposure to all of the five core areas described in “Vision and Change.” (Faculty can identify which of the V&C themes are covered in their course.)
  6. The Department will set its own requirements for courses in chemistry, physics, and math.
  7. The institution will set its own requirements for general education. (Note that a general freshman writing course will not satisfy the spirit of the Scientific Communication course above, but some combination of writing practice in the English Department and in the biology courses may well do so.)

National Science Foundation logo

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant #1935479: Workshop on the Substance of STEM Education. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.