Undergraduate STEM education is undergoing a massive change in philosophy. For decades, undergraduate life science education has remained nearly unchanged and students who enter college with the intent of pursuing a science major often change their minds, citing disinterest during introductory courses as their primary reason (Seymour & Hewitt, 1997). There are several studies recognizing that student research benefits students by improving success, retention and progression through their desired field. Students increase their knowledge in the chosen discipline, their writing and verbal skills and self-confidence. Importantly, students engaged in active research enhance their problem-solving abilities and critical thinking skills. The National Research Council has sited undergraduate research experiences as being the 'purest form of teaching' and AAAS Vision and Change has called for major changes so that 'the biology we teach better represents the biology we do'.
At CHS, students will experience research and the scientific process during freshmen coursework and throughout their undergraduate curriculum to ensure that courses are active, outcome-oriented, inquiry-driven and discovery based when appropriate, and relevant to career pathways in the health sciences.
The capstone research experience for CHS students includes the COLL310/410 series of courses. Traditionally, research experiences for undergraduates have been in the form of apprenticeships in faculty research labs, pairing individual students with a mentor, but there is limited placement, leading to a highly competitive nature of gaining this coveted research experience. At CHS, we employ the Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) model to ensure that every student has access to these valuable research skills. Students will choose their course research topic based on interests that will be developed and fostered as early as their first year, allowing faculty to provide a strong foundation in theory combined with real world application and practice.
Exploring research and scholarship at CHS?
Here's what students can expect from a Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE):
CUREs involve whole classes of students in addressing a research question or problem that is of interest to the scientific community. (Auchinclaus et. al., 2014)
- Every student in the course is actively involved using multiple scientific practices, working “with original data at the same time and with the same tools as research scientists” (iPlant, 2008).
- The research topics stretch beyond the classroom, with enough relevance for potential publication. For instance, research topics may address DNA repair and cancer genetics, the evolution of human locomotion, and RNA structure and function.
- The experience emphasizes the nature and practice of science; however, students do not have to focus on wet lab skills for a CURE. There is valuable work to be done throughout the wide scientific spectrum relating to individual interests, including topics within sociology, service learning, and needs assessment.
- CUREs highlight elements of discovery, during which students generate original data independently as well as collaboratively. Many courses also include 'flipped classroom' techniques so that students are active builders of knowledge rather than passive receivers of pre-determined course content.
- Faculty and peers collaborate with students to share skills and strengthen the academic process.
- Experiments are conducted with repetition to achieve valid results. This is as important in the lab as in the field; for instance, community-based research is structured as iterative work at multiple levels.
- Research theory and experiences are integrated (iCUREs) in many CHS courses, leading students toward their capstone research experience in COLL 310 and 410 (CURE). For example, students interested in developmental neurobiology would be exposed to relevant topics during BIOL120, Introduction to Molecular Biology; BIOL230, Genetics; CHEM310, Biochem; BIO410, Neuroscience; and BIOL420, Advanced Cell and Molecular, so that by the time students are engaged with their capstone research experience, they will have had sufficient exposure earlier in their educational pathway to ensure project ownership and success.