College of Science and Mathematics

Biology Faculty Featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Drs. Ray Enke and Oliver Hyman Comment on Accessible Research Experiences for Undergraduates


Read the full article here: 

Excerpt from How to Make Research Experiences Widely Available by Beckie Supiano:

"While CUREs have grown in popularity, they can be expensive and difficult to bring to scale. I recently heard from two members of the biology department at James Madison University who said it has created a CURE that meets these challenges.

The department spent several years creating and refining a CURE to completely replace the existing lab sections, most of which put students through exercises to get to results the professors expected. Changing that approach for the 500 to 600 students enrolled in introductory biology meant scale was a major consideration.

Sometimes, authentic research experiences offer students too much freedom to create their own projects and get out of control, said Ray Enke, an associate professor in the department. James Madison’s program avoids this, Enke said, by providing a “semi-controlled setting” where everyone is using the same techniques and supplies, but no one – not even the instructor – knows the answer.

During the first semester, students help measure the biodiversity of an arboretum near campus. They use DNA barcoding, in which a sequenced portion of a genome is used to identify an organism. This means collecting an organism, extracting its code, and using a database to identify it. The second semester, students create their own projects using the same tools.

And DNA barcoding can be used to explore a host of interesting questions in the lab component of students’ second semester, said Oliver J. Hyman, a lecturer in the department. Among them, he said, is product testing: “You can collect sushi and see, Is this sushi that says it’s made out of tuna actually tuna? You can look for plant DNA and see if there are plants used as filler in these hamburgers.”

That, Enke added, gives students the chance to be creative – which supports the broader goal of getting them excited about science. And the department hopes that its students won’t be the only ones who benefit: It’s opening the course up for faculty at other colleges."

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Published: Monday, July 22, 2019

Last Updated: Wednesday, July 24, 2019

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