Meeting Abstract

P1.80  Wednesday, Jan. 4  Mycobacteriophage Isolation and Characterization as a Model to Promote Undergraduate Research in the Freshman Curriculum MURDOCK, C*; DEBRO, L; Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, AL; Jacksonville State Univeristy, Jacksonville, AL murdock@jsu.edu

Jacksonville State University (JSU) participates in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) sponsored National Genomics Research Initiative (NGRI) of the Science Education Alliance (SEA). This HHMI program is focused on improving undergraduate science education through the implementation of novel research. Specifically, this program has utilized the isolation and characterization of mycobacteriophage as a model to promote undergraduate research. The specific aim of the JSU project is to test the hypothesis that participation in research will promote learning across the curriculum. We describe here the implementation, impact, and results from the experience. The experimental group (i.e., HHMI-SEA students) consisted of fourteen students representing a cross-section of the freshman class. These students enrolled in the traditional biology lecture, along with the control group. However, the HHMI-SEA students replaced the traditional laboratory component with an experimental laboratory course. Students were assessed by comparing academic performance and by measuring changes in attitudes toward science. We observed no significant difference in academic performance. However, the HHMI-SEA students demonstrated a measurable difference in gains in the student attitudes about science and in research productivity. Although none of the participants in the experimental course had any prior laboratory experience, preliminary results support the concept that beginning students can become fully engaged in novel scientific research. We conclude that participation in the research experience had no measurable effect on academic performance (i.e., assessment scores), but made a significant impact on student interest in science.