With funding from NSF’s Improving Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s DNA Learning Center (DNALC), in collaboration with New York City College of Technology (City Tech), Bowie State University (BSU), and James Madison University (JMU), offers a free five-day workshop on DNA Barcoding Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs).
Just as the unique pattern of bars in a universal product code (UPC) identifies each consumer product, a “DNA barcode” is a unique pattern of DNA sequence that identifies each living thing. DNA barcoding provides a powerful way for biology faculty to lead CUREs, which have been shown to increase student retention and success when provided early in undergraduate programs. Barcoding integrates big ideas from molecular biology, genetics, bioinformatics, ecology, and biodiversity—while at the same time providing the flexibility to address a variety of student-driven questions. Barcoding can be mastered in a relatively short time, allowing students to generate new data and reach a satisfying research endpoint within a single course. Furthermore, undergraduate students often have limited patience for bioinformatics, and DNA barcoding provides a wet-lab or field-based “hook” to increase engagement.
Workshop participants learn all the biochemical and bioinformatics techniques required for DNA barcoding, including the use of the DNALC’s sample database and sequence analysis tools. The workshop also incorporates seminars that introduce key concepts (“big ideas”), CURE development, management and evaluation, data science, methods to work with diverse student populations, workforce development, and details about the project. Seminars include insights from project co-PIs, including DNALC’s barcoding experts; faculty leading JMU’s two-semester core curriculum sequence, which engages 800 students and 20 instructors in DNA barcoding each semester; and City Tech and Bowie State faculty who lead DNA barcoding with diverse student populations. The competencies required for bioinformatics, genome science, and biological data sciences are also presented. Finally, faculty are introduced to metabarcoding—the use of high-throughput sequencing to identify all of the species in a mixture.
Faculty who complete the workshop receive travel support, a stipend, and have year-round mentoring and support from project co-PIs as they implement barcoding CUREs. Those implementing CUREs receive free reagents and DNA sequencing for student research. They are also eligible to attend future workshops on metabarcoding as part of the project. Select faculty will be invited to mentor other faculty, building a network of educators implementing DNA barcoding CUREs.
Faculty are asked to participate in a series of evaluation activities throughout the project, beginning with workshop evaluation. Faculty who go on to implement CUREs are enrolled in additional evaluation activities centered on their experiences as well as those of their students. Select schools will be asked to participate in additional longitudinal evaluation of students.
Candidates should be undergraduate teaching faculty with a sincere desire to involve students in authentic research projects, especially in CUREs for students in introductory courses.