Meeting Abstract

P1.82  Wednesday, Jan. 4  A Studio Lab for the Undergraduate Biology Curriculum: Using a Comparative Endocrinology Model to Recruit Future Scientists. HAWKINS, MB*; FERZLI, M; OVERMAN, E; SHEA, D; North Carolina State University

Students in the Research PackTrack program are investigating the structural and functional evolution of the three estrogen receptors (ERs) found in a teleost fish, Micropogonias undulatus. This well-characterized neuroendocrine model introduces students to the value of scientific inquiry through a comparative, evolutionary approach. The goal is help undergraduate science majors develop an appreciation for the authentic practice of scientific research. Opportunities for undergraduate research are limited, and students who do find projects in laboratories are often unprepared. The Research PackTrack Program addresses these problems in part via a three credit-hour course for sophomores that offers hands–on experience in a working research laboratory. This course allows for hypothesis-driven authentic research projects rather than standardized laboratory exercises. Lab times are highly flexible, vary from week to week, and depend on individual progress of the students. Students use a robust experimental protocol, in vitro bacterial expression of the ER and subsequent competitive binding assays, to test their novel hypotheses about the effects of site-directed gene mutations on ER-ligand interactions. Since estrogens play a critical role in a broad range of physiological processes and disease states, students are able to pursue a line of inquiry that particularly interests them. CURE survey results suggest that students in the program have an increased interest in science and scientific research. This “studio lab” approach encourages first semester sophomores to think creatively and to apply and reinforce the concepts they learn in traditional classrooms.