The Pipeline CURE

An Iterative Approach to Introduce novice STEM Students to C. elegans-Based Developmental Biology Research Throughout a Biology Curriculum

Presented by Dr. Karen L. Schmeichel
Thursday, June 9, 2022 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm

Research labs at major universities are increasingly seeking out ways to connect with high school students to improve access to authentic research at an early age. For students who aspire to STEM careers and/or want to learn how to perform scientific research, such access fills an educational need. In this workshop we will discuss ways for high school biology teachers and students to develop sustainable partnerships with scientists at nearby colleges and universities who regularly utilize models like C. elegans in their research.

In response to recent national calls from the NSF and AAAS demanding significant reforms to STEM teaching and learning at the college level, many instructors have begun to incorporate Coursed-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) as a high impact practice into their classrooms. The goal of a CURE is to replace traditional demonstration-style lab experiences with class-wide, semester-long open-ended inquiry around novel research questions. The Pipeline CURE at Oglethorpe University adheres to the CURE concept but extends it beyond a single class and throughout the 4-year Biology major. In an introductory class, students learn about the utility of the soil nematode, C. elegans, as a genetic model organism; they also learn basic husbandry techniques. In the next course, a sophomore-level Genetics course, they supplement those skills by performing traditional crosses and by scoring mutant phenotypes. With this foundational training, the students are well-positioned to take on more sophisticated projects in the final stages of the major; this “capstone” experience includes the generation of publication quality data around studies of the epigenetic regulation of gene expression during nematode development. In this workshop, we will introduce participants to the benefits of using C.elegans as a model for student-based research and demonstrate some of the simple and “low-tech” assays that have been used successfully with students throughout our Pipeline CURE. With a modest investment in some basic microscopes and equipment, these approaches could easily be modified for implementation at the high school level. CURE-style experiences could be designed using other biological model systems such as S. cerevisiae, D. melanogaster, and D. rerio. Because all of these model systems can be used as “sentinel species” in understanding the biological impacts of environmental contaminants and pollutants, this approach could complement chemistry-based inquiries as well.

Who Should Attend: High school biology teachers

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Dr. Karen L. Schmeichel is the Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Biology at Oglethorpe University and Adjunct Professor of Cell Biology at Emory University. Along with T. W. Lee, B.S. Carpenter, O. Birol and D. J. Katz, she developed the Pipeline CURE, the concept of using an iterative approach throughout the biology curriculum to introduce undergraduate students to doing research. At Oglethorpe she also established the STEM Education Journal Club and was the first faculty mentor recognized by the Promoting Active Learning and Mentoring (PALM) Network sponsored through the American Society for Cell Biology. She has also chaired the Oglethorpe Faculty Council ad hoc Course Evaluation Reform Committee, which encourages faculty-wide use of inclusive and active learning practices.