Genetics

1.  Course topic and level

Principles of Genetics Laboratory (300-level course) – This course provides an introduction to the principles of:
- Transmission and molecular genetics; 
- Recombination, structure and replication of DNA; 
- Gene expression 
- Cloning
Most students are sophomores and juniors with about 50% of the students majoring in Biology.   

2.  Main reform

‘Yeast, Let’s plump it up!’ is a module within Biol313L that provides students with an authentic laboratory research experience.  The module was developed as a part of the HHMI Center for Integrating Research, Teaching, and Learning at ISU and augments current research efforts in the NSF Engineering Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC).  It benchmarks transformative change in the undergraduate biology core curriculum in a large-enrollment laboratory course.  

The module provides a unique laboratory experience because they become “practicing scientists” for CBiRC, and are actively contributing new knowledge in the fields of biorenewable chemicals and microbial strain engineering, and in parallel learning fundamental concepts in biology and genetics.  The module demonstrates the successful integration of current research efforts in metabolism and directed genetic manipulations into the undergraduate classroom in a multidisciplinary, student-directed learning experience.  

The educational module provides a scaffold for students to aid CBiRC in validating the computation predictions by:
 
1) Exploring the primary literature, yeast transcriptome data and current lipid profiling data sets; 
2) Generating a hypothesis grounded by their preliminary in silico research; 
3) Designing an experiment, discussing their ideas with graduate learning facilitators, and experimentally testing their hypothesis; 
4) Analyzing their own data and proposing continued research; and 
5) Presenting their rationale, experimental plan and conclusions to a CBiRC scientific panel. 

This is a transformative change within the core biology curriculum, and exemplifies the move away from traditional “cookie cutter” experiments toward novel research-based learning opportunities.  Moreover, we have found that this module is providing students a platform for integrating genetics/biology and biochemistry with engineering concepts that are not usually exposed to either mono-disciplinary class setting. We have identified exciting learning gains for the students’ laboratory-learning experience, in addition to heightened student interest and engagement as they practice and contribute to a ‘hot topic’ in meeting a societal set agenda, research into biorenewables.

3.  Resources for faculty

We are happy to share course content, and are working with five universities as potential avenues for dissemination.

Please contact Dr. Alexis Campbell (alexish@iastate.edu) with questions or for further detail.

4.  Presentations/publications

Poster:  Biorenewable feedstock: Yeast, let’s plump it up.  ABLE Conference, June 19-22, 2012, North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Poster and talk:  “Integration of Education, Research and Computation” NSF nanoBIO node Site Visit, April 30, 2015, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and NSF CBiRC Site Visit, May 12, 2015, Iowa State University

Building upon the successes we have had in the classroom, NSF supported our submission for Supplemental Awards Summer 2014 and 2015 (Award 1456245, pending 1555457 respectively).

C. Cervato, C., W. Gallus, M. Slade, S.D. Kawaler, M. Marengo, K. Woo, B. Krumhart, D. Flory, M. Clough, A. Campbell, E. Moss, and M. Acerbo (2015) "It takes a village to make a scientist: Reflections of a faculty learning community charged with expanding science literacy and opportunity," Journal of College Science Teaching, in press 

Additional manuscripts that outline our education development and classroom transformation are in preparation.