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Title: Engaging Nontraditional Students by CURE‐ing Microbes on Ocean Plastics
It is well known that learning occurs best when students are engaged with a topic that interests them or has relevance for important aspects of their lives. In coastal California, the health of the ocean is a serious local concern, and ocean plastics are ubiquitous. We have developed a course‐based undergraduate research experience (CURE) on an existing research project addressing microbes colonizing floating plastic marine debris. The objective of the project is to increase student engagement and persistence in biology. The project (recently awarded an NSF education grant focused on Hispanic students) brings together National University (NU), an undergraduate teaching institution serving non‐traditional students, with Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), a world‐renowned research‐oriented institution at UC San Diego. A modular design allows students from different biology courses (both non‐majors and majors) to participate in field and laboratory research while also interacting with research scientists and graduate students. Module contents range from classroom material including experimental design, hypothesis testing, and data analysis, to laboratory activities such as deployment of test materials, microbiology and molecular biology techniques, as well as bioinformatics. Assessment of the project involves surveys and focus groups to evaluate student engagement, as well as institutional metrics such as retention more » in the BS Biology program. A pilot involving a non majors general biology course visiting SIO was well‐received by students. Currently (November 2018) an extended intervention is underway with a majors general biology course. During the first week of class students learned about the research project via video material and class lectures. A half day visit to SIO provided them with field trip experience, laboratory activities, presentation about plastic research, and interactions with scientists and graduate students. In successive laboratory activities, students observed colony morphology, performed Gram stainings and colony PCR, practiced Blast searches and developed simple phylogenetic trees. We conclude that the framework can be successfully implemented in spite of time and logistical challenges. We anticipate implementing and disseminating this CURE as a widely applicable model for biology and ocean science education centered on contemporary topics of immediate interest to students. Support or Funding Information This project is funded by the NSF‐HSI grant #1832545 « less
Authors:
Award ID(s):
1832545
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10190819
Journal Name:
The FASEB journal
Volume:
33
Issue:
51
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
617.1
ISSN:
1530-6860
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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