Faculty fellows introduce team-based research courses

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This past summer, the Office of Service Learning and Undergraduate Research launched a one-year fellowship to accelerate the work of faculty eager to develop courses that promote team-based research for freshmen and sophomores.

And it worked.

Seven faculty created courses across their fields to help give undergraduate students better access to research.

The faculty attended workshops during the year-long fellowship to exchange ideas, learn from each other and develop a course syllabus and other tools and resources needed to implement their new course. They also received a $1,500 enhancement grant to support course development and research.

“We want to promote that and build collaborations, working together to create something that is both artistic and scientific,” said Gareth Jones, assistant director of Service Learning and Undergraduate Research. “It might be beneficial for someone from STEM to look at art or film studies and think that the creative activity they’re doing is equivalent to what we’re doing with our research. We want to develop courses that offer multiple opportunities for entries into research.”

The inaugural cohort for the fellowship included Shahid Mukhtar, Ph.D., Denise Monti, Ph.D., and Sami Raut, Ph.D., assistant professors in the Department of Biology; Heather Patterson, Ph.D., instructional laboratory coordinator in the Department of Biology; Ted Bertrand, Ph.D., assistant dean of the School of Health Professions Undergraduate Research and Honors programs; Hyeyoung Lim, assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice; and Margaret Johnson, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry.

Click through the slideshow to learn more about their work during the past year and watch explanatory videos.

  • Shahid Mukhtar

    Department of Biology

    Mukhtar is designing BY 398, Genetics for Honors, a four-credit-hour course targeted to sophomores. The course will help students learn answers to questions such as why children look like their parents, how bodies know to grow into adults and more by covering topics such as cell division, quantitative genetics and the structure of DNA and RNA.

    “Genetics is one of the key courses for biology majors that doesn’t have a lab attached to it,” Mukhtar said of his inspiration for creating the course. “Plus, my teaching interests focus on active, inquiry-based team learning.”

    Watch an informational video.
  • Denise Monti

    Department of Biology

    Monti was inspired to develop an undergraduate research course on synthetic biology after hearing a lecture at the annual Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science program meeting. Monti had had success at UAB teaching an undergraduate phage genomics course series supported by HHMI and wanted to develop more opportunities for students to gain research experiences that encourage collaboration.

    Synthetic biology encompasses chemistry, biology, computer science and engineering, Monti said, and encourages students to work together to develop and design bio-machinery.

    “Students will gain hands-on experience brainstorming, designing, constructing and testing a basic bio-machine with the goal of contributing new BioBricks (DNA sequences conforming to a restriction-enzyme assembly standard) to the International Genetically Engineered Machine Registry of Standard Biological Parts,” Monti said.

    Watch an informational video.
  • Sami Raut

    Department of Biology

    Raut focused on translating the things she learned as a fellow into ideas for a new biology education course that will focus on teaching students to review literature, acquaint them with Institutional Review Board protocols and assessments and design an independent education research study.

    Raut believes that this course will interest to students with an education focus and also pre-medicine students who have a long-term interest in designing clinical trials.

    “Part of my inspiration to get involved as a fellow comes from my deep-seated passion for teaching and, above all, for assessing how my students are learning. Setting up this type of research course enables me to do that,” Raut said.

    Watch an informational video.
  • Heather Patterson

    Department of Biology

    Patterson modified BY 112 into the CURE format, short for Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences. In the course, titled “Drosophila as Example of Model Organisms,” students study the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, which shares 60-percent gene similarity with humans. They complete lab activities in various areas in which the fruit fly is used as a model, such as genetics, obesity, aging and stress, and then create their own mini-project.

    “BY 112 was created to give students hands-on scientific experience while helping them understand how and why scientists use model organisms,” Patterson said.

    Watch an informational video.
  • Ted Bertrand

    School of Health Professions

    Bertrand focused on creating and enhancing a series of team-based undergraduate research programs for biomedical sciences students and health care management majors; students can earn two certificates in undergraduate research.

    “Our goal in the School of Health Professions Undergraduate Research and Honors programs is to provide students with opportunities to participate in authentic research that are scaffolded in the context of a research team, so undergraduates experience firsthand how interdisciplinary teams and the discovery of knowledge leads to improvement in health care,” said Bertrand, an associate professor of Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences.

    Watch an informational video.
  • Hyeyoung Lim

    Department of Criminal Justice

    Lim created CJ 321, Police-Community Relations to explore the relationship police officers have with the communities they serve. A policing researcher, Lim wants to find ways to correct this current political culture in which American police and younger generations don’t understand each other.

    “I developed a research-oriented course so students can learn and understand the nature of policing better and to think about how we — police and citizens — work together to build trust in each other,” she said. “I want my course to serve as a starting point for that.”

    Watch an informational video.
  • Margaret Johnson

    Department of Chemistry

    Johnson designed CH 461, Advanced Biochemistry as an authentic research experience for undergraduate students. They contributed 3D protein models to a free, public-access database used for drug discovery, proteomics and medicine.

    “When students are active participants in the research process and are able to generate their own unique results, they are empowered to solve very challenging problems,” Johnson said. “They learn much more easily through this hands-on approach. Students gain confidence by realizing they are already scientists — they don’t have to wait to finish their degree or complete advanced training. They already have a unique ability to contribute to the scientific community.”

    Watch an informational video.