Assoc. Prof., Chemistry Franklin Pierce University Rindge, New Hampshire, United States
Shallee Page (Franklin Pierce University)| Anya Goodman (California Polytechnic State University)| Evan Merkhofer (Mount Saint Mary)| Scott Tanner (University of South Carolina Upstate)| Melanie Van Stry (Lane College)| David Lopatto (Grinnell College)| Wilson Leung (Washington University at St. Louis)| Laura Reed (University of Alabama)
The Genomics Education Partnership (GEP) is a community of practice focused on integrating genomics research experiences into undergraduate curriculum and supporting faculty in this endeavor. Founded in 2006, GEP has grown to over 100 participating two-year and four-year institutions and introduced thousands of students to eukaryotic gene structure, comparative genomics, and genome evolution. GEP members contribute their expertise and enthusiasm to the community through four committees: science and IT, curriculum development, assessment, and professional development and mentoring. Digital communication tools facilitate collaboration in this geographically distributed community while regional nodes enable the development of local initiatives.
Our education research is focused on student experiences, attitudes, and learning gains in the CURE setting. An important dimension of CUREs that distinguishes them from the traditional laboratory classroom is iteration: students have opportunities to make mistakes and re-do (Auchincloss et al, 2014). The scaling of undergraduate research from an apprentice model to the classroom, however, poses a major challenge for faculty, creating the need to provide feedback to a large number of inexperienced student researchers. We find that custom bioinformatics tools provide rapid feedback to GEP students and allow for iterative revisions of student projects. Student surveys and focus groups reveal that bioinformatics CUREs foster “formative frustration,” whereby students can safely fail in their original analysis, adjust, recover, and succeed; students value this experience. During the COVID pandemic, GEP has provided an authentic research experience that can be delivered remotely. Bioinformatics resources are available online, as are GEP virtual tutors. Thus, GEP is a viable option for undergraduate research projects even for online learning.
We are expanding our repertoire of scientific projects. GEP has partnered with Galaxy to develop G-OnRamp, an open-source platform for constructing UCSC Assembly Hubs and JBrowse/Apollo genome browsers to facilitate collaborative annotation of eukaryotic genomes. These tools allow us to include investigations of the evolution of venom in parasitoid wasps and an investigation of the evolution of genes in Drosophila biochemical pathways. We seek to grow our network of faculty and to increase the diversity of our community by making a variety of training opportunities available, including online mentoring via the QUBES platform and regional node workshops. We have created a supportive community of faculty and welcome new colleagues (no experience necessary!) eager for the challenge of bringing genomics research to undergraduate students at all levels. Faculty interested in joining the GEP can contact us at https://gep.wustl.edu/contact_us.