Scaffolding Genomics Learning for Undergraduates

Seminar by Dr. Susan Singer
Biology, Carleton College, MN, and NSF

Susan R. Singer, Laurence McKinley Gould Professor of Natural Sciences, joined the Department of Biology at Carleton in 1986 and has pursued a career that integrates science and education. She has B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees, all from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and completed a teacher certification program in New York State. Susan has directed Carleton's Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching and worked at the National Science Foundation as a program officer in Developmental Mechanisms. Her biological research focuses on the evolution, genetics, and development of flowering in legumes with an interest in prairie legumes as a biofuel source. NSF supports her flowering research and her research on undergraduate genomics education. She co-authors an introductory biology text and is actively engaged in efforts to improve undergraduate science education. In 2004 she received the Excellence in Teaching award from the American Society of Plant Biology. Nationally she serves on the board of directors for Project Kaleidoscope, for the NSF-funded iPlant cyberinfrastructure collaborative, and for the National Academies' Board on Science Education. Currently, she is the Director for the Division of Undergraduate Education at NSF.

Title: Scaffolding Genomics Learning for Undergraduates
Day: Monday, May 6, 2013 

Time: 3:00-4:30
Room: 1250 Biology-Psychology Building


Whole transcriptome sequencing can provide undergraduates with large data sets forming a foundation for authentic research experiences in the context of a teaching lab. At Carleton and Vassar we are integrating wet labs and in silico labs to scaffold student research experiences connected to climate change and the biology of the prairie plant Chamaecrista and the anemone Aiptasia, respectively. Students begin at the whole organism level, move to transcriptome analysis scaffolded with a web-based ‘Genomics Explorer' that we are developing, design and conduct molecular experiments, and prepare final papers and presentations. Student learning goals include: 1) Propose a testable hypothesis based on reading several journal articles that can be tested using transcriptome data. 2) Frame a meaningful question that can be addressed using transcriptome data. 3) Modify a hypothesis based on data analysis. 4) Use multiple bioinformatics resources without losing focus on a biological question. 5) Distinguish types of information that can be extracted from a transcriptome sequence vs. a genome sequence. 6) Demonstrate ability to leverage investigation by using the whole transcriptome for analysis (i.e. pattern search). Our assessment tools include: ACT CAAP Science Reasoning test, ACT Science Reasoning test, Genetics Concepts Inventory, Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire, Critical Thinking Rubric, electronic journal entries, web click throughs, and classroom observers. Pathway analysis revealed that successful students used iterative approaches, integrated multiple strategies, thought aloud, engaged each other, made metacognitive use of the electronic journal, developed focused questions and incorporated presentation feedback to improve papers. Students were able to frame a tractable problem, understand context and assumptions, develop their own perspective, make a case with evidence, integrate other perspectives, form conclusions, and communicate effectively. Supported by NSF (DUE-0837375 and DEB-0746571).