Posts Tagged ‘science education’

How Statistics Can Help Minimize Scientific Retractions

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 03-03-2014

The ability to duplicate an experiment and its results is a central tenet of the scientific method, but recent research has shown an alarming number of peer-reviewed papers are irreproducible.

A team of math and statistics professors has proposed a way to address one root of that problem by teaching reproducibility to aspiring scientists, using software that makes the concept feel logical rather than cumbersome.

Researchers from Smith College, Duke University and Amherst College looked at how introductory statistics students responded to a curriculum modified to stress reproducibility. Their work is detailed in a paper published Feb. 25 in the journal Technological Innovations in Statistics Education.

In 2013, on the heels of several retraction scandals and studies showing reproducibility rates as low as 10 percent for peer-reviewed articles, the prominent scientific journal Nature dedicated a special issue to the concerns over irreproducibility.

Nature’s editors announced measures to address the problem in its own pages, and encouraged the science community and funders to direct their attention to better training of young scientists.

“Too few biologists receive adequate training in statistics and other quantitative aspects of their subject,” the editors wrote. “Mentoring of young scientists on matters of rigour and transparency is inconsistent at best.”

The authors of the present study thus looked to their own classrooms for ways to incorporate the idea of reproducibility.

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Academic Research Explained

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 02-05-2014

The next time someone asks you where you work, send them to this video.

Yes…there is a “part 2″

Science Teaching Goes Viral

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 02-04-2014

An alternative approach to the traditional introductory laboratory course at the undergraduate level significantly increases student retention rates, according to research published in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

In 2012, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology reported that there is a need for an additional one million science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates in the United States over the next decade to meet U.S. economic needs. The report noted that even a modest increase in the persistence of STEM students in the first two years of their undergraduate education would alleviate much of this shortfall and recommended replacing conventional introductory laboratory courses with discovery-based research courses.

Launched in 2008 with only 12 schools, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Science Education Alliance Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES) has spread to more than 73 institutions and so far has involved 4,800 students. SEA-PHAGES integrates course-based learning within a framework of scientific activity including real-world research into mycobacteriophage genomics, professional networking, and the opportunity to publish in a scientific journal.

“As direct participants in scientific discovery our goal is to engage, excite, increase confidence and draw students into a cycle of self-motivation,” says Graham F. Hatfull of the University of Pittsburgh, an author on the study who leads the program for HHMI. “Phages are people-friendly viruses and their population size and diversity provide an inexhaustible wealth of biological novelty that imposes no obvious limits on the number of students who can participate in SEA-PHAGES.”

First-year undergraduates and high school students isolate novel mycobacteriophages from local soil samples, sequence their genomes and then annotate, analyze and compare them to those of other phages. Because each isolated phage is new and they can name them, students have a sense of ownership which helps motivate them to explore viral secrets. The more than 600 genomes so far sequenced include phages called Sunflower, Yo Yo, Funbox, Lucky, Che, Roscoe, and Hercules.

To analyze the effect of the SEA-PHAGES course on student persistence, Hatfull and his colleagues compared retention of students enrolled in the course with retention of all students and STEM majors at 20 institutions. They found that SEA-PHAGES students continued on to their second year at significantly higher rates (over 90%) than the other groups (both less than 85%.)

“Our core hypothesis was that participation in phage research would not only elevate student engagement in science, it would also provide invaluable insights into phage diversity and evolution,” Hatfull notes.

“Seven weeks in, and I still have no idea what I’m doing. But there’s a key difference now. Seven weeks ago I was beyond frustrated in my lack of knowledge. Now I have come to realize that this is what science truly is: guess and check, take a leap of faith and hoping you get lucky, making mistakes and learning to correct them,” says student phage hunter Allyson Roberts. “And that has finally inspired me to be intrigued by what I’m doing and what lies ahead of me in this course and in the future that awaits me.”

SEA-PHAGES evolved from the Phage Hunters Integrating Research and Education Program (PHIRE), begun by Hatfull several years ago at the University of Pittsburgh.

Seasoned phage hunter, Forest Rohwer at San Diego University, who was not involved in this study, calls SEA-PHAGES a “great idea,” noting that it has already proved “extremely successful at teaching people about both phages and genomics.”

Thanks to the American Society of Microbiology for this story.

Three Rules to Spark Learning

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 01-07-2014

Inspired by his doctor while facing a life-threatening illness, Ramsey Musallam came up with three great rules to spark learning:

  1. curiosity comes first
  2. embrace the mess
  3. practice reflection

Watch the brief video below to learn more.

Labs for Inspiration: Making a Difference with Bio-Rad’s Science Ambassador Program

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 11-20-2013

In August of 2012, Bio-Rad launched the Science Ambassador program, a corporate responsibility initiative fostering hands-on life science education. The program links interested scientists with interested nearby teachers through a simple website, so that the scientists can visit classrooms to conduct an exciting, one-hour DNA extraction lab. Bio-Rad facilitates these connections and supplies the scientists with free Genes in a Bottle™ DNA kits for up to 36 students per class, as well as easy-to-follow lesson plans.

In under a year’s time, the program has already made significant progress. Nearly 300 scientists and 300 teachers across the U.S. and Canada have signed up. And, in the single most important measure, more than 5,500 students (plus one big city mayor) have had the program’s signature lab experience: an up-close and personal encounter with their own DNA.

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