Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

A Bioinformatics Module for Use in an Introductory Biology Laboratory

Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

A Bioinformatics Module for Use in an Introductory Biology Laboratory

Article excerpt

RECOMMENDED FOR AP Biology

In response to biomedical science becoming increasingly data-intensive, Hunter College, like other undergraduate institutions (Miskowski et al., 2007), has implemented a curricular initiative designed to equip students in biology and related sciences with basic skills in computational and quantitative biology. Familiarizing students with bioinformatics--the use of computers to investigate and analyze biological data--lays the foundation for more advanced work in the biomedical sciences. According to the findings of the National Research Council's 2003 report Biology 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists, the adequate training of students necessitates a multidisciplinary approach. Donald Kennedy notes that "the 2010 report recognizes--as many biologists have not--the reality that our discipline has been transformed into an interdiscipline" (Kennedy & Gentile, 2003). Rice et al. (2004) add that "in addition to being able to think about biological processes from molecular to organismal and community levels of organization, tomorrow's biologists will also benefit from new bioinformatic ways of thinking derived from the fields of computer and information sciences." In recognition of this reality, the curricular initiative at Hunter was undertaken by a diverse team of faculty from the departments of biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, and statistics. Courses selected for inclusion in this initiative range from large introductory-level classes to small upper-level electives. The introductory courses enroll a wide range of students, including traditional science majors, post-baccalaureates, and students with no professed interest in the sciences. Thus, a heterogeneous population of students is exposed to the field of bioinformatics and the principles of quantitative biology as a consequence of this project.

To introduce the curricular initiatives, Hunter's team integrated innovative exercises across many courses that employed both active and cooperative learning. Where possible, real-world illustrations were used for student explorations because authenticity of data serves to increase the interest and enthusiasm of students (Campbell, 2003). The bioinformatics module presented here is the first example of an exercise suitable for an introductory biology course with a sizable non-science population. (1) This real-world, inquiry-based exercise is designed for use in a single 90-minute class period. It is readily adoptable by educators who wish to include bioinformatics content without significantly reworking an existing syllabus. Data collected from 2 years of implementation demonstrate that students who complete this module understand how to read files in a biological database (GenBank) and how to use a research tool (BLAST) to mine the database. Further, students' responses suggest that, like other inquiry-based assignments, this exercise provides "the self-investment and excitement that comes with discovery of new knowledge" (Brame et al., 2008).

* Setting

Hunter College of the City University of New York is a 4-year college in the heart of Manhattan with an undergraduate population of ~15,500 students. Among the graduation requirements is a two-course natural science sequence, which students often satisfy during their freshman or sophomore years. Principles of Biology I and II (BIOL 100 and 102) are routinely selected by non-science students to satisfy this requirement. In addition to non-science students, however, BIOL 100/102 are also taken by biology and other natural science majors as well as by post-baccalaureates fulfilling prerequisites for graduate and medical school. This module was developed for BIOL 102 to introduce the field of bioinformatics to this heterogeneous population, with the knowledge that this is likely to be the only exposure to bioinformatics the non-science students in the course would experience. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.